I have compiled 20 exercises here which I feel isolate all the right variables for growth in both learning to SEE, and learning then to translate that vision through painting. Obviously, I prefer oils for a number of reasons, but any medium will see benefit from these exercises as well, as they are geared for further insight in the realms of Visual Language. It will be recommended to go from 1 through 20 in order, as I’ve laid them out to be a steady and insightful progression, timely for development, but is not necessary. If you’re a more seasoned painter, in just reading them, you’ll be able to basically do the exercise in your head, and make your way through any repetition in your knowledge quickly, then do the ones that interest you. They should be fun, informative, and even sellable!
These are taken directly out of the book, Learn to SEE Learn to Paint. Preview/Read entire book digitally HERE
A great way to assess the relationships of the Visual Language Elements, is to squint your eyes at your subject. Squinting helps see the relationships of value more clearly which helps see the color more accurately. It also helps to see the larger masses of the light and shadow families for balancing the Shape element. While squinting at your subject, compare the values of all of the major shapes in your scene, and paint a picture in your mind of the scene you intend to paint. Starting with the block-in, again, un-see detail, see only the main value masses and arrange them pleasingly using your finger-frame. Look closely for potential weirdness in the values, or things that don’t read, but should, or things that need the help of artistic license. In doing this mental exercise, you’ll assess all of the information necessary to pull off your idea, build visual vocabulary, and start to come up with the most effective order of operations.
Early on, in my painting journey, I learned that if I just sat with the scene I was about to paint for a moment, it was extremely helpful. Drink some coffee, and think, and watch, and look, and be alive with it for a moment. This meditation is ALWAYS first, and later was followed by a quick pre-sketch. Visualize, actualize.