DIY ART 02 // five tips for looking at in-progress works with fresh eyes
There's a principle in psychology called habituation, which says that if we are exposed to something for a long period of time, we get so used to it that we no longer sense it. This is why we don't usually feel our clothes on our skin after we put them on, or why we can eventually drown out a boring teacher's monotone.

The same thing happens to me when I'm painting.

After working on a painting for long time, I get used to it. I think: the piece is coming along pretty well, in fact, it's looking pretty great. Then I talk it off the easel and catch a glimpse of it upside down.

Holy cow! It's a complete mess. All its asymmetries and flaws jump out as I see it from a new perspective.

I've developed a couple of little strategies to see my paintings with "fresh eyes" as I work on them, so I don't end up at the oh-god-what-have-I-done phase after a month of work. These would probably work for other visual media -- graphic design, textiles, photography -- but I'd love to hear what other strategies you've found to get a new perspective on your work!


1. Take a step back. Or ten.

If this calls up to your mind artists in cartoons leaning away from their canvas and squinting, I'm right there with you! But it's so easy to stay a certain distance (usually super close) to the piece, so you can't get a sense of it's overall composition. I've worked this into my workflow by take a circuit around my work table every few minutes to make sure I get farther away from the piece.

2. Turn it upside down. 

(Or sideways. Or the other way.) This really helps in looking for balance within the piece -- if everything is on one side or the other, or all the bright colors are in one section, the piece may feel imbalanced.

2. Look at it in the mirror. 

This is so, so helpful for me when I'm doing portraits, as the asymmetries in my piece just jump right out! (Taking a photo and flipping it horizontally would also work great.)

4. Take a photo and make it black and white. 

Obviously this only helps with colored pieces, but this is fantastic for seeing the true range of lights and darks and level of contrast in your piece. I've occasionally been stunned by this technique, realizing how all my colors are basically the same darkness.

5. Take some time away from it.
Before I decide that a piece is finished, I usually let it sit for a few days (or much longer) and "stare" at me, or put it away and forget about it. After a while, I'll have a better sense of how I feel about the piece -- if I can live with it, or if there are certain things I just have to fix.

What are some of your strategies for getting a new or better perspective on your work?

xo Diana
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