First You Must Learn to See

Paris Street Scene, 1972

It seems likely that artists will always endeavor to master the devices which create illusions. As they grow beyond the student stage, they may abandon some of these devices, or they may discover new uses of the tools they have acquired. Certainly our principal masters have undergone the discipline of reporting their visual experience, and it has served them well when they have sought “to render the invisible visible.” But mastery of the techniques of representation is not undertaken merely to discard them later, or to possess the confidence which is based on having endured a difficult discipline. Learning to draw accurately teaches the artist to see, that is, to understand what he is looking at. He must learn to distinguish between imitation of surfaces and informed representation. Laymen can benefit from the artists’s struggle to learn to see if they compare his rendering of reality with the world as they know it. In the difference between the two lies the important body of meaning which the study of art endeavors to uncover.

Edmund Burke Feldman
Varieties of Visual Experience (1972)

Painting by Richard EstesParis Street Scene, 1972


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