Paint what you see not what you think you see

By Patrick Turner-lee | Art adventure

Dec 16

Paint what you see….

Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see;….. Claude Monet

This resonates with what I have been saying to my students over the last few months. Naturally, I feel that any wisdom that manifests is already existing. Especially in the world of art. It really helps me when I have a realisation that resonates with a well thought out observation. This is the best way to learn by doing. My eyelids go heavy if it is an intellectual exercise !!!

I have been painting for just a few years. Through the persistent application of paint to canvas or wood, I have begun to realise many things through the art of doing. In this short space of time since I started to make paintings, I have come to understand that what I see is not what I think I ought to see as Claude Monet more accurately explains.

The “ought” is not wrong. The “ought” is helpful in a need to explain the art of seeing. For example, we tend to recognise things incredibly quickly. Consequently, we come to conclusions about what it is we see.

Our very safety and survival depend on our brains communicating to others quickly what something is.

An inbuilt safety mechanism revolves around the effectiveness of our senses. The more I exercise my visual art skills I can improve my ability to notice things that maybe I have overlooked in the past

It is amazing that the discipline of painting enables us to train our senses again. Perspective can also be an elusive mystery. We may think that something is a long way in the distance, when in fact it isn’t and sometimes the opposite paradox can be true also.

Where I live in Brighton there is a marvellous wind farm at sea. Strangely at certain times when the light is in a certain state, the large propellers can appear to be just a hundred yards away. Even though they are a few miles in the distance.

Dark and light is another aspect of painting that has incredible relationships with the whole image. Colour in one place on the canvas can also alter the effect of the created image.

I am coming to realise that everything we see is a bit of an illusion. A building for example. We know that it exists brick for brick. The way the light strikes it and the mood of the day can have a dramatic effect on what we actually see. It is difficult to explain, isn’t it?

Maybe check out the theory. Find a place that you pass every day and keep a note of what it is you are actually seeing. I maybe missed this beauty in life for many years. Now I look at things with much more of an open eye.

Patrick Turner-Lee