Friday, February 11, 2011

It’s All In How You Look At It – Part 2

Posted by Jennifer Roberts

Last month, we looked at perspective and its role at the beginning of the creative process. But, how you choose to look at your finished piece is just as important to your growth as an artist. So, how do you get an objective opinion?

The Finished Piece

I heard someone talking on TV recently about what dress she was going to wear to an awards show. She told the reporter, “I don’t trust my eyes, I don’t trust my stylist, and I don’t trust mirrors – so I take a picture.” Setting aside her trust issues for a moment, she had a good point. We all have people in our lives to whom we could show a formless, charred piece of still-smoking PMC that had been fired within an inch of its life, who would tell us how “interesting” or “creative” it is. You’ve seen the look. You show them your latest piece and you see a flash of “there is no right answer to this question” in their eyes.

How do you get an honest opinion? I like mirrors and cameras.


I started using a mirror to view my life drawings many years ago and it has become a favorite tool. I don’t know what it is about the seeing the image in reverse or the way the light bounces off the smooth surface of the mirror, but what I catch in the mirror can be amazing – not because I see it, but because I didn’t see it before. Sometimes my internal dialogue goes something like this: “hmmmmmm. . . that leg really isn’t proportional to the torso. In fact, it kind of looks like it belongs on a chicken.” Other times, I see things I really like that I had not noticed or intended to do, such as the use of a color as an accent. Either way, the process is instructive and it works for all kinds of media. The important thing is to jog your perception. Look at it from a different angle with a different point of view. For jewelry, all it takes is a small mirror on your work surface.


Cameras have the added value of creating a more permanent image. Also, you can set the camera down and work with both hands while looking at a picture, whereas holding something up to a mirror ties up at least one of your hands. Pictures are also great because you can share them. Even if you aren’t ready to post online for the entire world to love or hate, sharing with a few people whose opinion you trust can keep you moving in the right direction.

Perhaps one of the best uses of photographs is the ability to observe trends. You may not realize that you repeat patterns or that you favor a particular construction technique. You may never have noticed that your work tends to be all of the same scale, that you use textures of roughly the same depth on most pieces, or that you finish nearly every piece with the same patina, finding, or bead. But looking at your last ten pieces can make that undeniably clear. When you spot these patterns, you may decide that you need to vary your approach to break out of a rut. On the other hand, you may want to make your repetition more deliberate to develop and refine your particular “voice.” No matter how you react to what you see, looking at a cross section of your body of work can help you make more conscious decisions the next time you sit down with a fresh lump of PMC.

I like mirrors and cameras. What tools do you use to really “see” your own work?


Mary Ellin D'Agostino said...

I use the drawer method myself. This is usually for pieces that I don't like or didn't come out as I intended. If I put them away and look at them after some significant amount of time has passed. Then I am able to see the work in a new light; I can see it for what it is rather than what it isn't. Of course, there are always a few dogs that, after a couple of years, ought to be used for parts or consigned to the scrap heap.

Fran-from-france said...

When we look in the mirror, we see an other drawing , it's not the one we have drawn.
Our eyes don't see straight, but our brain get used too (or the contrary) . When I draw, without realizing it, every vertical line seems to bend a little on the right and my horizontal lines go up on the right side. When I look at them in the mirror they seem to bende left or go up left a lot. One other thing : our eyes focalise close to us and when we look at the picture in the mirror we see it from further away.
In art school we were always told to check our picture in tehe mirror, even when paintin a subjet then we must look at the picture and the subjet in the mirror.