On visual memory - Page 3
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  1. #61
    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Yes, that's a definite trend.

    I think the main problem is the lack of an understanding of how art conveys meaning. (Part of the problem, actually, is reading people like Harold Speed and thinking one has read a book about composition and expression.) So they come up with pretty ideas for decorative paintings which have no passionate truth at the core of them. And the more sensitive among these atelier-dwellers never work up the passion to make the thing. And the more ambitious actually make their pretty little ideas, which when exhibited bore the pants off everybody except the other atelier dwellers and rich women who would like a friend in bohemia and something pleasant for over the couch.

    Harold Speed-type training is the reason why Harvey Dunn's composition classes were full of professional artists.

    At least Icarus tried!


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  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Sid,

    There is actually a different view of this I've read that stems from the Golden Age of Illustration; That if rigorous training kills an artist's talent, it was worth killing because it wasn't all that strong in the first place.

    The real problem is that ateliers are generally run by artists who have utterly lost sight of the purpose of training.
    Again really well said kev (the entire post but pulled this out for emphasis). The problem I have with an overly academic approach is the tendency to think of it as an end itself...it is really nothing more than a means to an end. Give me Egon Schiele any day over Tony Ryder. At least Schiele captures a sense of life, attitude and personality in his weird, quirky drawings...as opposed to the lifeless, static drawings Ryder slaves over. He could be drawing mannequins or sacks of grain for all the life his figures have. But, that's just me.

    Another good paraphrased quote (I think it was Reilly?) goes something like this: I can teach you the tools and how to draw...but I can't teach you why .

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  4. #63
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    Do you mean the stuff along the lines of, "this painting looks contemplative because of horizontal lines?" If so, we're agreed on that, although to his credit, he did say over and over that they weren't rules of composition and that using those tools alone wouldn't give you a good picture. I've learned more about composition from reading what little Golden Age notes I could find, yours and Chris' posts, and to a smaller extent Henri's book than just about anywhere else... but I will say that, even 4 years ago, I would have thought it sounded like new age babble. Stupid, cynical, self assured teenage materialist in spades .

    In this cultural climate, it's difficult to talk to most people in the terms that Pyle and Dunn used. The idea that there are big, felt truths at the heart of great art sounds, even to a lot of my former classmates and friends, like I'm looking for something that isn't there. I'd imagine that with all that cynicism to get through, it's easier to teach a lot of people how to compose the way Speed did... or, God forbid, Hambridge. Of course, none of it gives you a good picture.

    Just to get to some semblance of being back on track- I've seen a few of the atelier folks teaching 'visual memory' as, literally, learning to look at a shape and then copy it exactly from imagination, working your way up to pulling whole compositions from memory. I can't remember the name of the guy they've picked it up from. Any thoughts on that?

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  5. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by pegasi View Post
    so the beginner should discard all of this until he is able to play the instrument?

    Edit:


    What I understand is that when starting out you should work on the technical aspects of art, and don't bother with the more advanced we are talking here.
    Others have explained it well...I didn't mean to imply you don't think about the what and why when observing...you always think about it. That has to be at the back...and the front of your mind always...between those two is the execution, the practice, the study...and the attempt to express your statement as clearly as you can. You should know what you want to say when confronted with the subject...you say it...and when you have have said it as well as you can you are finished. That is actually how you know you are done with a piece. Sometimes that is a 20 minute painting...sometimes a 30 second gesture...sometimes an 18 hour drawing. But you should always know, or at least have an idea when starting, and that is the "impression" mentioned earlier...sometimes that "impression" is actually only a concept or idea within your mind's eye and not even a subject before you.

    I know this stuff seems all heavy and philosophical or whatever...it's just the stuff that comes from all of us trying to understand, share our own experiences and reflect on the wisdom of those that have gone before us. It's just good stuff to keep in mind and consider as you continue your own journey.

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  7. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidharth Chaturvedi View Post

    Just to get to some semblance of being back on track- I've seen a few of the atelier folks teaching 'visual memory' as, literally, learning to look at a shape and then copy it exactly from imagination, working your way up to pulling whole compositions from memory. I can't remember the name of the guy they've picked it up from. Any thoughts on that?
    I know you weren't asking me but...I have some!

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    Always glad to hear your thoughts, Jeff . I usually learn a thing or two.

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    A very important side point; one of the most important things you can possibly learn is how to start, work on, and finish artwork. You learn how to do this by starting, working on, and finishing artwork.
    Truth!!


    Kev and Jeff, very interesting. Thanks guys. I'm starting to get the big picture here.
    If you excuse me, I will start applying my newfound knowledge right away.

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  11. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidharth Chaturvedi View Post
    Always glad to hear your thoughts, Jeff . I usually learn a thing or two.
    Ha! Thanks Sid! Just remember...you asked

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidharth Chaturvedi View Post
    Just to get to some semblance of being back on track- I've seen a few of the atelier folks teaching 'visual memory' as, literally, learning to look at a shape and then copy it exactly from imagination, working your way up to pulling whole compositions from memory. I can't remember the name of the guy they've picked it up from. Any thoughts on that?
    Really my only thought would be to ask: to what end? I understand the point and excercise of "snatching the model away"...but this has more to do with training your observation skills, training yourself to quickly see and read the essential character/visual information than it does with training memory. Also it smacks to me of just another way of copying the subject...it's just now you're copying it from memory. What "art" actually takes place in that process? It's like a parlor trick more than anything else.

    Just my two cents.

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  13. #69
    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Do you mean the stuff along the lines of, "this painting looks contemplative because of horizontal lines?" If so, we're agreed on that, although to his credit, he did say over and over that they weren't rules of composition and that using those tools alone wouldn't give you a good picture.
    Actually, that's the stuff that should be the good stuff, if there was a lot more of it. And if it was thought of a much more poetic quality than "horizontals will always give a sense of repose." I mean, yeah, horizontals will give repose... until such time as the viewer falls asleep. Its so basic - a few cheesy "secrets" here and there - and so geared toward the amateur sunday afternoon barn painter that it becomes absurdly reductionist. This may not be Speed's fault because, after all, he was writing a general interest book, something for uncles to give to their talented nephews who draw on the back of the tablecloth. But Speed's actual artwork, except for a few minor exceptions, isn't all that interesting either. So there might simply be a gap in his knowledge in the area of expression, just like so many others just like him. Yet he's quite strong on more technical matters, imo, which are important nonetheless.

    At least Icarus tried!


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  15. #70
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    I too would like to thank Kev and Jeff for answering these questions as clear and direct as you can. It is most helpful.

    I hope you don't mind if I add a bit on the things just said.
    The relation between spectator and spectacle fascinates me. I think we have just separated two roles an artist can take on. On the one hand the artist is the spectator observing natural phenomena and on the other the artist is intervening with this process, taking on the part of the spectacle. However, I think it is important to take in account that this clear separation only exists on paper. When working it is a farce since we are both simultaneously I think this matters because of the question "on what to focus?" Pegasi asked. Yes, I think it is important to focus yourself on the fundamentals, certainly during the first few years of your art career. I think learning these fundamentals is absolutely critical for your progress. However when you are actually busy drawing and learning both are just as helpful. Observing I think is as much about learning to ask better questions as it is about possessing the tools to answer them. So I think it is important to learn both. The creation of ideas teaches you to ask better questions and observing natural phenomena provides the answers.

    Last edited by D.Labruyere; December 16th, 2012 at 08:42 AM. Reason: English is a horrifying bitch.
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  17. #71
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    Thank you D. - that is very much appreciated.

    And yes, more good thoughts there. I've always been really interested in the interaction of the artwork and the viewer as well, really that idea has been primary in my fine art work. And for all the thought I've given those concepts I never looked at it from the point of view of "intervening"...that is really interesting. Thanks for adding that!

    And your English is great! If I might make one suggestion it would be in the closing sentence, changing "learns" to "teaches"...someone way smarter than me about grammar could explain why, I just know that would match up better.

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  19. #72
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    Thank you Jeff. I will change that. Rereading the sentence it does seem obvious. Ha! I taught myself English at the age of five because I desperately wanted to read Shakespeare (reflecting on that, I was a weird kid) and our library only had English editions at the time but somehow your mother tongue always keeps creeping up when writing or speaking other languages. I think this will never change.

    I got the idea of intervening with the spectacle from Alain Badiou, a French philosopher. I don't think he is very known on this forum because he comes from the radical left. His ideas appeal to me because they provide a serious alternative to post modernism. He is wrong of course but so was Plato and so are the post modernists. What appeals to me is that he isn't afraid to use words like truth. He is against the idea of art being a mimesis of nature and instead claims art is singular. What he basically says is that when creating art we are (re)arranging the forms of knowledge and by that process create new truths. We intervene with ontology. You could say that the former arrangement of knowledge, what I would like to call the status quo, gets disrupted by the creation of art. Anyway, the english wikipedia article on him is quite good and worth a read if you want to know more about him.

    Last edited by D.Labruyere; December 16th, 2012 at 09:00 AM.
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  20. #73
    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    D. Labruyere,

    All the thoughts that wiki article credits to Badiou is from earlier thinkers and/or garbled. This is not the thread to unpack that mess.

    The most useful theories of truth, those that seem to be holding up over the long term, are the pragmatic theories of truth, which stem from the thought of Charles Sanders Peirce, (called the American Aristotle).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_theory_of_truth

    Essential to the discovery of truth is what Peirce called a Community of Inquiry:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_inquiry

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Kev I am sorry. It is not my intention to derail from the purpose of this thread. I just wanted to show Jeff the source of the idea. At least, from whom I got it. I am afraid I simply haven't read enough (yet!) to be able to say from who he borrowed his concepts or why he garbled them. I am currently busy reading Foucault and I do see a lot of similarities between the two. Anyway, I shall see if I can get a few books from Charles Sanders Peirce and add them to the list.

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  22. #75
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    The things being described here are not so much about visual memory, whatever that is. In my way of thinking all memory is visual, so the term visual memory is a pleonasm.
    And not very useful for painting.

    What most artists struggle with is learning to see as an artist. I think this is what the OP is describing at the end of his post to some degree.

    It is the ability to translate an idea so it can be recreated as an image that instantly conveys to the viewer the artists intent.

    This is a form of active viewing where the artist must be fully engaged and is consciously studying the inspiration for the idea and through selection and elimination, deciding the elements of the image and their design and placement within the picture plane.
    It is a heightened state of awareness that allows the artist to continue to feel the experience of the source of inspiration while also deconstructing it for the creation of a painting or drawing. It is observing one’s self while the self is experiencing something.

    This process requires organization, placing a hierarchy to the elements in terms of visual importance for emotional impact. It requires a huge amount of focus and emotional openness by the artist while working.
    In drawing it is arranging the key of the of the image, the specific lights and darks of a range of values and the level of detail the elements will need to be effective.
    It also includes way the marks are placed on the paper and deciding on the relationship of the 2 dimensional shapes and their edges.

    In painting you would include everything the drawing has but also include the color key of the piece and the relationship of all the colors of the individual elements as well. Besides the calligraphy of the marks and shape and edges, the levels of thick and thin paint should also be considered.

    Technically, active viewing is bending the constraints of the artists medium and the artists ability in service of the artists idea for the image.
    When done right the artist not only conveys the idea but creates a visual prosody for the viewer,
    actually allowing them to share in the same feelings the artist experienced at the time the artist was inspired.

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  24. #76
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    To relate back to the concept of "truth" I mentioned in post 54...
    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    I like to think of it as a sliding scale...with truth (realism/accuracy) at one end and heavy stylization at the other. Toward the truth/accuracy end of the scale observation will be dominant...toward the heavy stylization end imagination and construction/design will dominate.
    In this case I was talking about truth in a very limited, practical sense, as opposed to more philosophical truth based on ideas. It comes from one of my plein air mentors Matt Smith. He used to say (and I'm just paraphrasing the idea)... any painting/study where you can capture even a note of truth is worth keeping. The more you work and the more awareness you develop the more "notes of truth" any given piece will have. He was basically referring to accuracy of observation, but coupled with the intent and statement of the artist. In other words a "note of truth" in this sense would be an accurate observation stated with intent to convey or support your view on the subject. So again it is a balance, it isn't copying what you see...nor is it fa-la-la-la-la slap-dash painting just because you feel like being expressive.

    Hope that makes sense.

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