Seeing More Clearly?

Artists do see more clearly than others but it has nothing to do with eyesight.

Do artists see more clearly than other people? My aunt asked me years ago what I saw when I looked at a particular lake. I couldn’t really say verbally but I could with paint. Paint is a language I can speak better than words. But does that mean I am “seeing more clearly” than the average person? People ask why did you put that bit of red somewhere. Or that little bit of orange. I don’t have an answer to that. It just needed that bit of orange or blue or whatever. That leads me to believe I see something other people don’t but does it mean I see more clearly?

Visual Artists tend to see:

  • Fine detail
  • Vivid color
  • Color interactions, sometimes subtle, sometimes blantant
  • Shapes missed by the casual observer
  • Emotions
  • Movements
  • And lots more

A similar statement on musicians would be do they hear more clearly? And writers. Do they verbalize more clearly. Poets? Dancers?

Our physical vision, hearing, etc. is not better than any one else’s. Our heart’s vision is different. This might explain why Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe kept right on painting after their vision started dimming. Beethoven was composing after losing his hearing. Their hearts were still talking.

Do visual artists see more clearly? With their eyes, no. But with their hearts? Yes! The secret is to keep the eyes of the heart open! Listen to what the heart is saying!

The heart always sees clearly.

Colorful Fridays–Incredible Inedible Yellow Reds

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There is no blue without yellow and orange.”  Vincent Van Gogh (from Brainyquote)

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters preferred heavy applications of opaque paints.  Among the favored paints of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were the cadmium family of yellows, reds and oranges.  The cadmiums make rich, strong dominant colors in any painting.  Fears of toxicity with the cadmiums have limited their use for many artists.  However, some minor precautions will prevent the harmful effects of the cadmiums allowing artists to make use of these paints without concern.

The cadmiums are toxic only if you eat them or inhale them.  Chances of toxicity through the skin are limited but you probably wouldn’t want to paint yourself with them either.  One source says a potential point of toxicity is smoking with cadmium paint on your fingers.  The paint absorbs into the cigarette facilitating inhaling the paint into the lungs where it becomes carcinogenic.  Best not smoke and paint at the same time.  (Well, best not smoke at all but who’s lecturing!)  If mixing dry paint pigments, wear an appropriate mask.  If you are concerned with the toxicity, paint with colors labeled “hue” as in cadmium yellow hue.  These are entirely free of the cadmium toxins.  Listed below are links to safety sites with more information.

Taking proper precautions with the cadmiums will enable their use in myriad ways.  Gary Bolyer on his website lists two important points to success with the cadmiums.  First use only Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Red Light.  Secondly, refrain from mixing the cadmiums with white.  Mixing with white will result in chalky, diluted colors.  (Follow the link to Boyler’s site for more success with the cadmiums).  Gamblin says cadmium yellow was preferred by Claude Monet because of its higher chroma and its greater purity of color.  There is more at Gamblin’s site, as well.

Rumor has it that Vincent Van Gogh’s problems were the result of the use of the cadmiums.  According to the rumor, Vincent had a habit of holding his cadmium paint saturated brushes in his mouth.  So if you don’t want to go off the deep end and cut your ear off, keep the cadmiums out of your mouth.  Don’t smoke them either.  Otherwise, you can enjoy the regular use of these beautifully rich opaque reds, yellows and oranges profusely in all your paintings.

Safety links:

Princeton Artists Safety


Draw Mix Paint Forum

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Les Alyscamps” with lots of yellows, reds and oranges!

To Muse or Not to Muse

Opinions on whom and what is a muse abound.  There are differing opinions on the origins of muse, though all accounts attribute the muse to the ancient Greeks.  Some accounts say the muses are the nine daughters of Zeus. Others say the muses are the three daughters of Apollo.  All accounts state the muse is artistic inspiration of some form.

Many people tend to think of a muse as a woman or mistress.  Picasso is said to have had several.  Other artists frequently had the same woman appear over and over in paintings. Historians attribute the appearance of these women as the artist’s muse, mistress, lover, etc.  As the Ancient Greek muses were women, this is likely why, along with the artist’s penchant for painting certain females regularly.  But for a large number of artists, muse is place or nature.

Places associated with artists frequently become as popular as the paintings.  Monet’s Givenchy is a much sought after tourist destination.  Monet’s garden at Givenchy was his muse later in his life.  And Monet is most known for his Water Lily paintings inspired by the water lilies in the pond in his garden.   Monet’s greatest success can possibly be attributed to these paintings from his later years at the garden of his inspiration.

California artist, Rod Jones states of the muse, “you can’t necessarily pick one, they often pick you.”  He has more on the muse in a wonderful blog post titled, “Every Artist needs a Muse.”  The blog is well worth a thorough read.  This blog post can be found here. 

One of my favorite artists is Paul Cezanne.  Cezanne started out in Paris with the Impressionists and painted there for many years before returning to his native home of Aix-en-Provence where he painted many paintings of the countryside.  Cezanne’s still life and figurative paintings are quite beautiful but the landscapes come to life in a truly dramatic way.  The colors are so varied and vivid in his landscapes that it sets them quite above the others, in my opinion.  Provence was Cezanne’s muse and his greatest success came after his return to his hometown.

I agree with Rod Jones that you can’t pick muse, muse picks you, whether it is human or nature.  The issue for many artists is to pay attention when the muse makes her pick.

A slide show of Cezanne’s works is here.

The movie “In Search of Cezanne” can be found here.

The life that comes through in Cezanne’s Provence work is so vivid:




For more on Cezanne go here and here.

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