Interpretation

I noticed today that while looking at a painting and interpreting the shadows in a certain way, I see similar shadows in the same way in other areas of the painting. This isn’t just a result of the time of day since the scene is a room on a bright day. As a result of this constant interpretation of shadows, it is only necessary to paint one area carefully and the resulting interpretation will be used by the viewer in other areas.

I’ve been told this by a couple of teachers; it’s only necessary to paint a, or the, principal area carefully and the rest of the painting can be done quickly as it will be interpreted in a similar way. I said earlier that I notice this today but that’s not quite right. I’ve known this for a long time and been told by teachers but this is one of the few times that I’ve actually noticed it. I believe that we continuously interpret what we see, so when one area becomes complete and matches our mental construct of what we are seeing, the entire painting is re-interpreted and can change depending on that interpretation.

As a result, I take this one step further and paint a picture so that most of it sort-of matches what I see, then pick a spot and increase the detail until there is no doubt as to what it is or how to interpret it. Other areas of the painting may not be particularly realistic but they will be re-interpreted based on the one area where there is no doubt. This must be similar to how we view the world because if I do it right the entire painting takes on a realistic quality or illusion. I describe this as jumping off the canvas.

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