Why is painting in a naturalist or realist style so difficult? The tools are simple: sticks with hair on the end, soft pigments, and a surface. The subject matter is often *right there in front of you*. So what makes it difficult?
Painting should be easier for us. With a still life set up right 2 feet from you and ample light, it should be a simple matter to duplicate it bit for bit - then with some practice, even improve upon it. Don't you think so?
Yet, it's not. In fact, given a lifetime to practice, some people will never be able to realistically portray an object or a face, no matter what. And the even stranger part is - they don't know that. They don't see their own errors, and have no plans to correct them.
Susan Donley has a nicely laid out chart that compares Betty Edwards' and Viktor Lowenfeld's concepts of artistic development in children. The example shown for a 14-16 year old could be anybody - in fact, it could be any adult.
I think there's a point in our development where we either ask ourselves, "What does that really look like," or we don't. And if we never ask, there's no reason to develop past the schematic stage. Things in our minds eye can easily just be their schema: horse, dog, car, mother, cup. It's a perfectly useful system. In fact, asking yourself, "Hey, what color is a glass of milk in shadow?" is probably a sort of nutty thing to do.
But even though artists ask those kinds of questions, the answer isn't immediate - it still takes years to develop the ability to represent our world in a naturalist fashion. So the reason must be deeper than simple seeing. I think seeing might be the first part of the answer, but once we see, what then? What prevents our sudden and permanent evolution into artists?
I don't know. I hope you weren't looking for an answer at the bottom of the post.
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