{Making Monday} Learning from John Singer Sargent

Here we are on a Monday again...after springing forward and sleeping less... Happy Monday! 

Slow but steady progress on the layers of color. At this point, I need to look at other painters' work to see how they paint similar subjects. For example. John Singer Sargent (19th-century American painter) painted many watercolor sketches of scenes in Venice that include a similar style of architecture. 

These are just his sketches! (Not his completed work.) His paintings take my breath away. He has an eye for color and a decisive touch, and intentionally includes the right amount of detail in the right places.
For example, this portrait I saw with my family at the Huntington Library and Garden in Pasadena a few weeks ago:

There is incredible detail around her face and less detail away from her face, like at the bottom of her dress. I think Sargent chose to do so since it's a portrait of this woman, not of his ability to paint the folds in her dress (though his ability is apparent!)
This is an important part of good paintings- knowing where and how much detail to include to mimic the human eye. We can't see everything at once, so when a painting imitates natural sight it seems to work well. Detail everywhere is overwhelming and feels busy because we aren't used to seeing that way. This is all assuming one has the natural ability plus training to capture the necessary details and make such distinctions, either by instinct or training, or both. 

The same applies to color. It's helpful to think of how we naturally see. Colors up close are more vivid than colors in the distance. In paintings or photographs, when all colors in the foreground and background are equally vivid, there is no depth because we perceive depth by color and scale distinctions. Working contrary to these "natural" rules can be used intentionally if you don't want it to look natural or comfortable, like Fauvist Art. Maybe that's why Matisse is unsettling, like these examples below:

I'm in painting observation mode now and then I will continue on with my triptych. The color and detail balance is difficult! Yet the more I paint, the more those decisions come by instinct so I will keep at it.

Using thick, rich strokes of paint: