Here is the rough beginning of the next chapter of my proposed workbook. Any comments, suggestions, questions are appreciated. I will be out of town for a few weeks soon, and probably will not be able to start the chapter on color until my return.
Value is the primary way we perceive form. In fact, some teachers will tell you that the “focal point” of a painting is the spot of greatest contrast. Through form, line and value, we begin to perceive depth on the flat plane. Color with its attributes is another aspect that I will discuss later.
Often, our perception of form in the world around us is not a “cut-and-dried” thing. It is a matter of closure. We perceive something that signals a “form” and we apprehend it (comprehend it) as a car, or a jar or a tree. Closure is the ability of the mind to complete a pattern or picture where only suggestion exists.
But your “trained” perception can lead you astray as a creative artist. When you were a child, you may have been taught by adults “how to draw a house or an apple.” Thereafter, you have established a mental symbol for house or apple to work from. That leads you to assume that, when you are looking at an apple, etc., you should supply the symbol. But I am asking you to look for yourself, look newly. If you understand that concept of closure, you can use it as needed without being restrained by past symbols.
There’s a great example of a mis-represented form in the book The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. The little prince draws a picture. It looks like a hat – one of the kind that men used to wear in the thirties. But actually, it is a picture of a snake who has swallowed an elephant.
“I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them.
But they answered: "Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?"
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.”