“One sees qualities at a distance and defects at close range.”
At Sociable Art events, my guests sit and paint at tabletop easels leaving little distance between themselves and the canvas they are working on. In every class, I mention that artists need to step back from their paintings to see them clearly. My suggestion is always followed by laughs and someone joking that their painting would look better from halfway across the parking lot. Seriously though, being too up close and personal with your subject keeps you from seeing the painting as a whole.
I have attached an image of a close-up view of one of Monet’s paintings of water lilies. Not too impressive up close, is it? It is difficult to even tell what we are looking at. However, when you step back and view the whole painting from a distance, all becomes clear from your new vantage point. Monet was trying to capture his impression of the scene. Interestingly, he was suffering from cataracts when he painted most of the water lily paintings, and his eyesight was greatly diminished.
Try this; the next time you are painting, step back from your painting occasionally. When you view the painting from three or four feet away, you can suddenly see what was not apparent up close. Viewing your work, your eye should move easily around the painting. From a distance, you can see problem areas that are distractions and stop the flow of your vision. It is evident where you need to add contrast between light and dark to form better definition between objects. The best thing is, almost always, your painting will look better to you from far away, even if that’s across the parking lot.
The same can be said of many situations in life. If you are faced with a problem at work, a difficult relationship, or any sort of dilemma, try taking a step back and create a degree of separation. When we are in the thick of things, right on top of the problem, we can’t see the forest for the trees Only from a slight distance, can we see all of the parts of a whole and gain an objective perspective to see what needs to be fixed and what is valuable and worth saving. I can’t tell you how many times at the conclusion of a Sociable Art event, a guest who has been sitting a foot away from their canvas all evening criticizing their own work stands up, steps back, and smiles with satisfaction when seeing their work from a distance.
“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.”