At my art academy, we had a teacher who had set himself a goal of teaching us one specific thing: to take a step back.
We’d be painting or drawing with charcoal. And we’d be close to the paper or canvas. And the teacher would walk by behind you and say, “take a step back.”
He could repeat it until he was blue in the face. You can get sucked into work from up close on the details when you’re drawing or painting.
And you forget to step back. And then you don’t see the whole.
The reasons for taking a step back are two-fold:
1. You need to see the whole. Maybe the detail you are working on has the wrong proportions. Does the composition work as a whole?
2. We only see sharp in the center of our field of view. By taking a step back, a larger part of your piece fits into the area you see sharp.
You will see things wrong with your current piece by taking a step back.
As you get sucked into the details, you will forget to take a step back, so set a timer to remind you.
I also find it helpful to take metaphorical steps back: to go for a walk to clear my head or to even take a longer (but not too long!) break. You tend to see things in perspective if you move away from making art entirely.
Distance gives a different perspective.
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