The other day, one of my favorite artist-bloggers Michael Chesley Johnson wrote about his “Viewing Mantle”, on his blog, “A Plein Air Painter’s Blog”. He writes, “In my opinion, an artist really needs to live with his paintings in a place of calm in order to render a fair judgement.”
This hit home with me. I recall as a software engineer I would at times spend hours looking at the same code, missing the bug that I was trying to find. Only after stepping away for bit was I able to come back to that code and see the problem–usually immediately. The same applies to my paintings. You can spend hours working on a painting, seeing nothing but it. You need to rest your eyes, and better yet, put the painting away before you over-work it and look at it in fresh eyes the next day.
Another reason I have my own viewing mantel is to see my work in the same lighting conditions that the average collector would have. We’d like to think our paintings will installed perfect spotlights illuminating the work in a dark calm room, but of course, that’s not the case. Most rooms have indirect sunlight during the day and indirect incandescent at night. Usually, much less light than you had when you painted it outdoors or a well lit studio.
So, step back. Place your work in a place of calm in your home, under lighting conditions less than ideal. You’ll see where that last stroke needs to go, or where the values aren’t reading. Happy Painting!