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Notes & Advice 1: Stepping Back

Words of wisdom, from the astoundingly skilled, 26-year-old, San Fransisco-based painter Hsin-Yao Tseng:

“It’s important to squint your eyes while studying your subject and to stand back from your painting frequently. Squinting simplifies the details so you can see the big shapes and value patterns of the subject. Also, you get a sense of the lost-and-found edges. Standing back from your painting lets you evaluate the unity of the piece. Seeing the unity prevents you from overworking detailed areas or making unnecessary brushstrokes.” (Seidner, Rosemary Barrett. “Born To Paint.” The Artist’s Magazine. October 2012: 44-51)

Great advice for perfectionist, detail-obsessed realism painters. Although aware of this advice long before reading Tseng’s feature this week, I too often forget to practice it. It was a timely reminder, as I was just about to put the finishing touches on a new experimental painting.

The more experimental or unfamiliar the territory that an artist is navigating, the more important it is to have his trusty fundamentals and basic skills by his side, like a compass, should he suddenly realize how lost he is.

So, Inspired by this painter wise beyond his years, I spent a recent afternoon in the studio focusing on this teaching. Being mindful to step back and gaze loosely at the overall image every 30 minutes or so, I found it a very refreshing practice. Note to self: do more of this.


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