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Give yourself a break!

Why we MUST take breaks from our work

I don’t know about you, but have you ever noticed that the longer you work on a drawing or painting, the more difficult it becomes to see your errors? So you become frustrated because something doesn’t look quite right. Then you start to second guess and try to fix and redo, and before you know it, you want to give up or, worse, rip it up!!??


Before you give up, there’s many valid reasons for this, starting from your eyes tiring of the subject to confirmation bias. If you are a beginning student, it may also be that you cannot quite see accurately just yet. Whatever the reasons, we all need to learn to recognize our errors, mistakes, etc.

Rest your Eye

Confirmation bias; is a fancy term for tired eyes and lazy brains. Let me explain…have you ever taken a few days, weeks, or months off from drawing or painting a subject only to come back to see tons of obvious mistakes? That’s confirmation bias. The longer we look at our subject, the more our perception dulls. What’s more, it can happen in as little as fifteen minutes!

(REMEMBER: Take a break)

Plus, the longer you stare at something, the less you see. Why? Because our brain gets lazy and wants to see something and move on. So you give in, make a decision, and now your brain believes that what you’ve drawn has to be correct because you just drew it! Simply put, the main takeaway is that frequent breaks can disrupt that bias.

Give your eyes and brain a rest so you don’t lose the power of judgment.

Squinting your eyes

I love this example. The hunters in some Native American tribes looked for game (or the enemy) by staring out and blurring their vision. By dismissing their focus, their ability to observe movement was magnified. You aren’t looking for actual movement; you’re looking for errors. Squinting your eyes helps you see mistakes in context. It’s different from just looking away because it helps you see your drawing and subject in your entire field of view.

Negative Shapes

When you look at your subject, let’s take, for example, a human face. So you look at it, then your brain jumps in and says ok, I know what that is; 2 eyes, one nose, and a mouth in an oval shape; therefore, that’s a human face. What to do about that pushy brain? Well, here’s one solution. Break it up into shapes. The actual head/face are positive shapes that you are drawing, and the negative shapes are the shapes that create the background. This may sound complicated at first, but if you take the time and tell your brain you’re looking at shapes, not a face, in no time, you’ll be able to draw just about any subject, I promise. It just takes practice and discipline.

Standing Back

This is another important step, remember to stand back from your artwork at least 5ft because by doing so it forces your eyes to see the big-picture. You’ll be able to can see specific shapes, values, colors, and edge errors. However, you are also changing your view as you back away from your viewing position. When viewing your artwork, always have it at your eye level. This also applies to work on an easel. Your eyes should be directly pointing out in front of your work. If you work on a flat surface like a table, your focus will be distorted because perspective distorts your view slightly.

Practicing these simple steps will help you create beautiful art with less frustration.

Leonardo da Vinci says..

"Beyond taking intentional breaks, many artists keep multiple projects going at the same time. That way, when their eyes or mind fatigues they can keep painting by switching to a different one."

He knew a few things about art.

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