Why is painting difficult in the first place?


There are two approaches to drawing (at least):

Constructive drawing
where the the artist builds a scene from component parts.
Replicative drawing
where a visible scene or a reference image is captured and reproduced based on how it actually looks. The component parts and mechanics of the scene can be disregarded in favour of the final view.

Constructive drawing

To draw well with the constructive approach the artist must know a lot about the objects in the scene. They need to know the relative sizes and proportions of the objects and their component parts. They need to be able to mentally manipulate the parts and imagine how they will look from a particular orientation, where the lighting is coming from, how it will interact with each part and what shadows will be cast. They may need to understand perspective and foreshortening, loss of contrast and definition with increased distance and more.

Replicative drawing

Hetch Hetchy

Forget about the drawing the concept of the thing and draw the appearance of the thing.

Using the replicative approach the artist does not need to know anything about the objects in the scene other than their relative locations and colours. Indeed it can be desirable for an artist to deliberately repress anything they know about the objects contained in the view in order not to fall into any traps of the constructive approach.

Draw what you see, not what you know to be there.
Think of colour first, subject last. Everything begins as an abstraction of colour. Sergei Bongart

The replicative approach requires the scene be visible to the artist (or at least have been visible if they have a great memory). The artist must study a the scene or reference in detail but they do not need to understand it.

Drawings can be a mix of the two approaches. Sometimes without the artist realising. This can be a good thing but it can also lead to disconnections. A modelled object, perhaps with incongruous, contradictory lighting, might be included in a scene and look like something cut out from a different picture.

Colour judgement

A and B are the same colour #787878
©1995, Edward H. Adelson

Judging the colours in a scene is extremely difficult. There are so many optical illusions which can fool us into thinking that the same colour, repeated in different situations, can look wildly different in each. The lighting plays as great a part on the perceived colour of an object as its underlying local colour. If not more so.

Even discounting optical illusions it's still hard to judge whether two colours match. Getting them a little wrong doesn't seem such a big deal individually, case by case, but can make the final image look odd for reasons that can't always be easily fathomed.

Colour mixing

Once we have determined what colour we want we still have the problem of mixing it from our available palette.

When I started all this I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. This problem was the main driver for me when I started writing the helper program.

Paint technicalities

It turns out that it's not so difficult once we get to know which experts to trust and which to ignore.

Although it is perfectly true there is no black in the solar spectrum visual phenomena are not entirely made up of light. There is the negation of light -- darkness. There are places where the light does not fall, although there is probably no shadow so deep but some light is not reflected. These omissions on the palate Rob most of the impressionist pictures of much of the dignity associated with really fine colouring. Harold Speed

Paint application

Again, not actually all that difficult. Once we know the right colours and the right places we can just splodge them in.

Some paints dry faster than others which can put us up against the clock. We need to plan our workflows to allow us to cope. Choosing the right brush sizes makes a fair difference.

But these are all minor hurdles that are easily cleared with a liffle forethought.

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