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Carolyn Anderson — The Art of Visual Language

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #72

Show Notes:

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Today, we sat down with Carolyn Anderson, an artist with a passion for capturing the essence of what she sees and expressing it in an impressionistic and poetic manner. She is also someone who has dived deep into trying to comprehend how visual language affects how we paint and how to use visual language as a tool to create artwork that compels the viewer to look closer. In this episode, we dive into some of Carolyn's fascinating research into visual language, she also gives us excellent advice for how to improve your work, and what she believes is the most underrated element in painting that no one considers. Finally, we talk about her amazing notebook on her website where she shares all of her fascinating insights on painting as well as visual language.

Visit Carolyn's FASO site:

Carolyn's Notebook:

Carolyn's Book:



Carolyn Anderson: 0:00

Painting is really all about seeing or learning to see, or seeing information that maybe you want to see or whatever. But at least being able to parse the information. People don't look up at the sky and go, What are the you know, what are those clouds, you know, that's where you get to the level, the sky is blue and the clouds are white. Now, that's a problem. Because once you have that simplistic idea in your head, you just might not see the nuances that are there. But if on the other hand, you're parsing it out as Okay, let me grab it to the to the paint and try and quantify what the heck is going on here. Then you see the variety. So even though you can't start a painting with all that variety, you can start thinking about it with that variety.

Laura Arango Baier: 0:46

Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango, Baier, and I'm your host. For those of you who are new to the podcast. We are a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. Today, we sat down with Carolyn Anderson, an artist with a passion for capturing the essence of what she sees, and expressing it in an impressionistic, athletic manner. She is also someone who has dived deep into trying to comprehend how visual language affects how we paint, and how to use visual language as a tool to create artwork that compels the viewer to look closer. In this episode, we dive into some of Carolyn's fascinating research into visual language. She also gives us excellent advice for how to improve your work. And what she believes is the most underrated element in painting that no one considers. Finally, we talked about her amazing notebook on her website, where she shares all of her fascinating insights on painting, as well as visual language. Welcome, Carolyn to the BoldBrush show. How are you today?

Carolyn Anderson: 2:00

I am very fine, Laura, thank you for having me.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:03

Of course, I'm so excited to have you as I was mentioning to you before we started recording, I had been obsessively reading your blog articles, because they are so deeply informative about painting and perception and all of these things that go much more into the craft than normal. You know, it's not just the surface level, you really dive into the aspects of creating a beautiful image. And I'm so excited to talk to you about that. And your work, of course, because I can definitely see how your depth of knowledge really comes through in your work because it is absolutely gorgeous.

Carolyn Anderson: 2:44

I appreciate that. You're welcome.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:47

Yeah. But before we dive into that, do you mind telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Carolyn Anderson: 2:52

Well, Carolyn Anderson, I'm a painter, oil painter of various subject matter, but I'm probably most known for some of my paintings of people. But I also do other things. I I just put out a small book on some of my bird paintings. And I've been painting birds off and on for years. I paint horses, I painted dancers, I you know, so I various subject matter. And I've been probably in professional art for, I don't know, 40 years now at this point. So Wow. Yeah. Taking part in a lot of major shows. I don't I don't do any of those to speak of anymore, except the only one I've stayed a member of is the American impressionist society. So, yeah, long career, I guess. Yes.

Laura Arango Baier: 3:52

And that means you have a lot of wisdom. Which I think so I think so. Especially because there's always

Carolyn Anderson: 4:01

something to learn.

Laura Arango Baier: 4:03

Absolutely. I think that's the other reason why you're full of wisdom is because you know that there's so much out there that has to be known. Because if you know everything then what's the point? Right?

Carolyn Anderson: 4:14


Laura Arango Baier: 4:15

What's the point? Yeah, exactly. Um, so I wanted to ask you, since you have had a long career, what started that path into becoming an artist for you?

Carolyn Anderson: 4:29

You know, that's, I don't know, I guess I, I've always been attracted to art. I still have images in my head of myself laying on the floor, poring through the World Book Encyclopedia Art section, you know, time after time studying painting, you know, when I was probably like seven and eight years old, so I always had an interest in art. And it took a while, of course, to get to the point where I could do it, you know, full time and professionally was kind of a long On slog to say the least, but, you know, just nose to the grindstone goal in sight, and eventually, everything worked out, but so yeah, it's just I think it's just like anything else in life we have, you know, individual likes and dislikes, and we're attracted to certain information. And that's kind of where it went. But I think in hindsight, this is the interesting part for me now, is that when I look back on all those years of painting and trying to learn how to paint and trying to understand a little bit more about the whole process, is that I was probably more directed towards finding out about art not necessary. So painting was just a part of that process, because in order to learn more about art, it's helpful to just do it. And so I think in hindsight, that's probably what I was doing all along, was just trying to figure it all out.

Laura Arango Baier: 5:57

Right? Yes. And that makes sense, then that you would dive into researching visual language, which we will of course, talk about. But before that, you so when did you make that jump into full time art? Was that something that you studied and then immediately went into? Or?

Carolyn Anderson: 6:17

Now, you know, I grew up in that generation where my parents were adamantly against my attending the Chicago Art Institute, because of course, what are you going to do with art, you know, so I ended up going to Illinois State University, I was born in Chicago, ended up going to Illinois State University, to be at our future, which is kind of ironic, but that just did not hold my attention. So eventually, you know, interims, I, at one point, took a year off and went to join visto, which at the time was set up somewhat like the Peace Corps, but it was volunteers and service to America. So it was set up like the Peace Corps, I was assigned to an Indian reservation in Montana. And years later, I just ended up moving back to Montana. So not with a particular direction in mind. But just, I don't know, you know, hopefully, everything fall into place. I, you know, I worked, I worked in a print shop for years to make a living, I raised a son on my own. So as a single parent and, and I think it was basically when my son graduated. And at that point, I'd gone to part time work. So I was working part time doing art show shows doing painting, I sometimes did commissions in which I haven't done for eons, but you know, anything to kind of make it work. And then when my son graduated from high school, I quit my job and just went full time. So Wow. And it worked out.

Laura Arango Baier: 7:54

Yes, it did. And I think it's very interesting to how, you know, it's one thing to be an art teacher, and it's another to want to fully research something independently, you know, because, of course, when you teach, you need to know your subject matter. But at the same time, when you're researching, it allows you that privacy and individuality. And I guess that, I guess, yeah, you enter. It's almost like a hermit state that allows you to properly take these ideas and have the, I guess, jump around move around in your brain versus having to explain something to someone which is a totally different. It's like intrinsic and personalized music.

Carolyn Anderson: 8:42

Yeah, assimilate the information, and possibly a slightly different way. You know, another person, you're just basically just trying to find my own path forward. And yeah, yeah, it's been interesting.

Laura Arango Baier: 9:00

I mean, yes. You've had a lot of awesome experiences. I mean, you did mention in you know, before we started the recording, that you actually did workshops or you were contracted by Disney Imagineering, which is so cool. Do you mind telling us how that experience affected you and your work?

Carolyn Anderson: 9:22

Sure, so that the Disney Imagineering workshops were started, basically by Tom Gilligan and Laurie Stevens and they were both living here in Montana and they decided Tom was a Disney Imagineering artists a very well known one. Very good one he's now most notable in the Western art market, but at the time, they decided to start these workshop projects for some of the Disney Imagineering artists so it wasn't a perk for the artists to you know, like travel somewhere and take workshops or sometimes what they do is bring us into Glendale California, and you know, set up workshops and teach there. So that was just an amazing opportunity. And during that, so of course, to meet a lot of very talented, creative people, which was just amazing. But one of the benefits for me, personally that came out of that was in the process, we were working with Peggy Van Pelt, who was our mentor, for those of us who were teaching workshops there. And she was working on a book with a very famous Disney artist, about just basic design. Designing Disney, I believe is what the book is called. And she wanted some information on tending more towards visual language. And basically, I was nominated by everybody else. So she's asking all of us who are doing work there. And, and everyone just said, Caroline, you have to get Carolyn, because she's the only one who really likes this stuff. At the time I was including talk about fractals in some of my workshops, which I kind of dropped because people's eyes wouldn't cross. But it's a fascinating subject with regard to art. But anyways, so I did that for Peggy. Now the perk of that, you have to realize that this was right before we we had the internet. So getting books was a process for me example, for example, is going to, you know, if I knew what I wanted, I could go to the library and get it on Interlibrary Loan or something. And you didn't, we didn't just didn't have the information available, you know, on the web, because there was no such thing. So, but the perk for me was I, I was able to go make several trips to Disney Imagineering and California, just to use their art, their library, and their library, there was basically like a small town library except filled with books on art. That was the most amazing thing ever. Because all of a sudden, I had just a wealth of information at my fingertips, you know. So, in fact, I still have photocopies of pages and pages of books that I copied off while I was there, I probably broke our photocopier at that time. I did have, we did have, you know, some, you know, small laptops that were available. But of course, no, no internet to use that information. So you know, I just hop on a plane and go down there and as usual library. At the same time, what was also fun about that is calm and I sometimes we'd go down there to do demos, and he dragged me along because he never, it'd be like a group of people at Disney. And he'd say, oh, we need to, we need to get on the plane in the morning and go down there and do a demo. So bring your easel because he never liked to do demos. So it always dragged me along to vism. But it was fun. Because here again, at that time, you could basically get on the plane with your easel and your paint slung over your shoulder. So I just didn't change. Yes. But the Disney the Disney process was exposure to a lot of very creative and talented people. Number one, but probably more importantly, was the exposure to the use of their library, which was the foundation for a lot of the work that I went on to do. And of course now it's so much easier with the internet to find all kinds of stuff. So there you have it. Wow.

Laura Arango Baier: 13:46

So basically, that's what started your visual language research. Wow.

Carolyn Anderson: 13:52

Well, my visual language research had started before then. But like I said, I was pretty much limited to the kinds of material I could find. Because there wasn't any, you know, big base of knowledge I could tap into. So with that it was you know, one book leads to another book kind of thing, you know?

Laura Arango Baier: 14:13

Yeah. That is amazing, though. That is like, wow, first of all, I can only imagine the difficulty of having to scavenge through all of that information. I feel like today, we're so spoiled because we can just type in a sentence and there's the answer versus before he had to I know read the book.

Carolyn Anderson: 14:33

You know, I mean, and I just like to point out in some ways, you know, a lot of ways of course, it's a huge plus, because we can find almost anything on there. You know, you want to type in like what was Sergeant's palette or something, you know, sometimes found a pop up. But it's the other thing that I find though is that sometimes we get the surface information and we don't dig deep enough. have. So in other words is almost too much information and you have to have a little bit of focus and a little bit of direction to, you know, kind of stay on a path of assimilating. Yeah, it's too easy for people to jump around. Let's put it that way.

Laura Arango Baier: 15:16

Absolutely. That's very well said, I, unfortunately, also suffer from that a bit like, I will pick up a book and then I'll read like, a page, and then I'm like, I guess processing it, and then I get distracted. So well, it takes a lot of effort.

Carolyn Anderson: 15:31

Distraction is a big plus, you know, there's been a lot of research on how, basically what, what we can say is that the internet is rewiring our brains. And one of those side effects is that we become too easily distracted. I keep saying that people can't read anything more than a paragraph or two, without losing tracks. And that's across the board. I mean, they've done studies where we're university professors even say, you know, I used to read all the time. And now I just can't, you know, read a book from start to finish. Yeah. So

Laura Arango Baier: 16:03

I feel that because I did grow up, just before the internet became a big thing. So I was also I was one of those kids who, like I had, I was hiding a book under my pillow. So I can write all night, you know? Yeah, no, it's like I did, oh, my gosh, barely read a paragraph.

Carolyn Anderson: 16:23

But one thing that I found that helped sometimes is to keep, you know, several things going, instead of a start to finish book, you know, several things going at once seems to kind of help. But I think we're all in that we're bombarded with so much information anymore, that it's difficult to maintain a focus and stick with something. So we think, Well, I just need to scan this or scan that and not, you know, sometimes that that works for certain things, but it doesn't always work. Oh, no, especially

Laura Arango Baier: 16:58

if you read books, before a certain time period. Like, for example, I've been reading on poetics by Aristotle. And it is one of those books where I am reading the annotated version, where it was two scholars that, that, you know, they actually tried to explain it, you know, we're using points of reference and making sure you have the historic and, and proper references. And even just reading a page of that it is brutal on a brain, because the amount of connections and neural synapses I have to make to fully comprehend the message. It's really difficult. But once once it hits, once the message goes through, it is so amazing. Which on poetics is actually a really great book, if anyone is interested in narrative painting. And since it is about money, you know, the study of tragic Theatre in ancient Greece, so I highly recommend it.

Carolyn Anderson: 18:01

But interesting, yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 18:04

um, it's actually a book that Odd Nerdrum recommends to his students to read. So that's another reason why I have it. But aside from that, and

Carolyn Anderson: 18:16

I was just gonna say a sidebar on that. I can remember, years ago, an artist recommending, he was an editor for American artists magazine, and wrote a lot of articles and was a very good painter, and he recommended the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The painter, I heard of that.

Laura Arango Baier: 18:37

actually heard of that book. Um, and, you know, it makes sense, for some reason that that would make sense. I had I had a friend who also used to say that if you read a book closely enough, it is the book of life. So yeah, about

Carolyn Anderson: 18:58

There you go. Everything, every little nuance in a book or, you know, just books in general arts in general, it's all about life, whether it's dance, music, whatever, it's all a reflection of life. It's basically what I call our idea of asking ourselves. What the heck is this all about? Who am I and what am I doing here?

Laura Arango Baier: 19:25

Those are the million dollar questions.

Carolyn Anderson: 19:28

Yeah, exactly. When people have been asking them since, you know, humans walk the earth, so, but it's just a compilation of things throughout history. Yes,

Laura Arango Baier: 19:42

absolutely. And every I feel like every different vocation kind of has their own way of answering that question. So fascinating. From each perspective, it's a little bit like everyone, like everyone has the right answer in a way, you know,

Carolyn Anderson: 20:00

Because a partial answer, yes,

Laura Arango Baier: 20:02

exactly. Because we don't really know the answer.

Carolyn Anderson: 20:06

We don't have. That's what keeps us going, I guess.

Laura Arango Baier: 20:09

Exactly. It's the endless search for truth. Which as the Greeks, you know, they really love that, you know, you can never fully reach truth, but you can approximate yourself as close as you can. And that's good enough. Because hopefully, hopefully, it all becomes clear after you pass on to the next life, depending on where you go leaves. Yes. But before we get to existential or here, I did I know to know, I did want to know, since you have been researching for a long time, even before, you know, you knew that you were doing it consciously. I wanted to know, is there a specific aspect of visual language that you think is underrated or isn't mentioned enough? That is actually very, very important.

Carolyn Anderson: 21:00

Yeah, and I'm gonna say line. So I'll explain it in a second. But I think we probably just need to clarify. So the basics of visual language, are based are usually recited as line shapes, value, color, and then textured edges. I give this a lot of thought, a long time ago, while I was sitting on a plane actually going to Disney. And thinking, you know, that's just for in my mind, I like to keep things when it comes to painting as simple as possible, because there's just so much information, you know, it's like narrowing it down, find the focus. But anyway, I decided that texture and edges are aspects of the first for my shade, value, color. Okay, there, they can be extremely important, but they're, they're aspects of the other four. So if you want to break it down to the real basics, you can just keep it simple as line shape, value color, it makes perfect sense. And out of those, we spent a lot of time in oil painting, especially talking about, say it's in color and value. But for some reason, wine seems to get overlooked or discounted is not a part of painting, you know, we recognize it as a part of drawing is a part of, you know, a good example would be etching, you know, we, and I think it's because of the word association, there are a lot of things that we just don't comprehend in their entirety, just because of the association of the word word is limited in our mind. So I think because artists a lot of times associate line with a thin mark, you know, it's been directional Mark, if you will. And so don't recognize its potential for, let's say, well, direction and painting or for modifying edges, and overlook the importance of the youth align, even in painting. So Sargent Zorn, for example, you can go back and look at their paintings, you can find lots of examples of line, if you accept that line is not a pencil mark. Okay, it's not an outline. It doesn't have to be an outline, it can, you know, and one of the incarnations, that can be an outline, but it doesn't have to be an outline, it can be a modifier. So I think line kind of gets left behind, we spend a lot of time on shapes and, and like I said, value and color. But but not line and line is our basic mark making. So if you consider that any mark that you make with a brush is dependent, of course on the size of the brush, but it's unless you're doing pointillism it's basically line.

Laura Arango Baier: 23:59

That is mind blowing.

Carolyn Anderson: 24:02

Yeah, yeah, no, it doesn't have to be line that that exists on its own as a mark. Right. So it can be, you know, and if you go through and look at a lot of paintings, you'll see it exists as Omar. But it's, yeah, what so so I think the problem then that happens with the shape value color thing is, sometimes artists spend time filling in information instead of creating a translation of information. Right? Yeah. And that would be where the brush mark comes in.

Laura Arango Baier: 24:37

Exactly. Yes. And then also, you know, I think from I think I heard a friend once mentioned that people are natural renderers a form they're not very natural drawers of form right there. They don't I feel like especially beginners, they tend to skip past the drawing. Also, where they they're like, Oh, that's good enough. I want to get into the fun stuff. It's just filling in They're like no, no, but yeah, render it. Exactly.

Carolyn Anderson: 25:05

Yeah, there is still at an at a base base level for a lot of painters, and especially more beginner to intermediate painters. But there's still this base level of thinking that line is used to draw things or outlines. And paint is used to fill in, right? And therein lies a big problem. So if we read categories, categorize line as basically brushwork, then it gives it a whole new meaning and direction. It

Laura Arango Baier: 25:40

does, yeah, and it doesn't make sense to, like, for example, I mean, one of the people that I thought of immediately when he said it was Hans holding, since he he was a very tight painter, but it was very, it was still drawing, fundamentally. And of course, the 90% of an excellent painting is great drawing, which, you know, knowing that it makes me laugh that, you know, we would still ignore line. And I can definitely agree with you.

Carolyn Anderson: 26:07


Laura Arango Baier: 26:09

We do? Yeah, and

Carolyn Anderson: 26:10

I really, you know, I've given this some thought, and I really do think it's just because of the association of the word line, for most of us is, you know, when we sign our name, or we draw with a pencil, or outline, and it's, it's much more than that. So right, outline, how could you do anything? Really? Yeah, that's

Laura Arango Baier: 26:31

true. And you know, that that also makes me wonder, do you find that in order to properly use line? Do you find that following? For example, if I'm following the the form of the face, right, and not just filling in hot fat haphazardly? I'm actually following the form with the brushstrokes would that be kind of like a way of using line?

Carolyn Anderson: 26:53

Verb, a lot of different ways to use line, I mean, there. Yeah, I mean, we can consider it sometimes as outline, because usually you have to give depth, if you're a realist painter, you have to give definition to something. But that doesn't mean that that outline is the same all the way around, which is a basic drawing, you know, spend any time in drawing studios, you realize that you need to find and lose information to make the form read is three dimensional. So the line can be expressive. It can be descriptive. In brushwork, you know, you can with paint, it can modify an edge, or accentuate an edge. So, you know, it's just, it's a multipurpose tool, let's use it like one. Yeah, maybe we should start referring it to, you know, it's still line is line, but I mean, maybe in that, in my mind, that's a basic element. But when it comes to painting, it's more mark making, if you will. And so I'm, I'm more of what I call an organic painter, you know, I, so I don't ever just draw something completely on a canvas, I'm gonna find the information that I feel is the strongest information and that defines what it is that I'm seeing, it's generally going to go back to, to value, you know, light and shadow, because that's what defines our reality period into story, you know, without light and shadow. What will we be, we'd be paper cutouts walking around this earth. So, yeah, yeah, so like shadow. And that's where, you know, doing value studies, or something can be very important for a lot of artists. But that's, that's where I'm always going to start my painting. And even no one needs to mass information. And I try to avoid that whole concept of filling in, because it's just not very creative. Interesting.

Laura Arango Baier: 28:53

What would you recommend instead?

Carolyn Anderson: 28:57

Well find the marks that are important, and then just start building from there. And so if you if, for example, let's say, we're, we're doing something like, maybe it's a landscape, so we have sky area, and then there's going to be a horizon line, or something, you know, some such thing like that, that's fairly straightforward. So, instead of going up to that area in the sky, you know, at some point, you have to start blocking in some value information. So you know, where you're at on that canvas. Instead of just going up to that sky and say, you know, okay, now I'm going to paint the sky, you know, and it would be more like, okay, now I need a value and a color to, you know, start my painting, if you will. So, it's just a different way of thinking about it. So now, that way, you're, you're using the value in the color and if you want to, you know, just consider you know, I'm painting the sky, that's fine, but it's basically just So I need a value in color. Where am I at? Is there a variation here? You know, do I vary the color? Is it warmer here and cooler there. And it's much more creative. Even though you can't do that all at once, when you start a painting, you can at least get that thinking in your thought process in your mind, instead of thinking, Okay, now I'm good, I got this big, rectangle shape at the top of my painting, I'm gonna fill it in. Right?

Laura Arango Baier: 30:22

Yeah, cuz there are subtleties that, you know, to the, I guess, if you decide that it's just one color, then it will be but then it won't be accurate, per se, or won't be as impactful. Yeah,

Carolyn Anderson: 30:34

here's the thing about that kind of painting, it's, we recognize that painting is really all about seeing or learning to see, or seeing information that maybe you want to see or whatever, but at least being able to parse the information. So it really is a scene process, and in our everyday lives. And for those people not involved in the arts. We don't see that information. We just don't, people don't look up at the sky and go, you know, unless it's a sunset or something, but they don't look up at the sky and go, let me quantify the difference between that value and ColorShift at the horizon line versus further up? Or what are the you know, what are those clouds, you know, that's where you get to the level, the sky is blue, and the clouds are white. Now, that's a problem. Because once you have that simplistic idea in your head, you just might not see the nuances that are there. But if on the other hand, you're parsing it out as the gold K, let me grab a two tuba paint and try and quantify what the heck is going on here. You know, then, and make comparisons, then you see the variety. So even though you can't start a painting with all that variety, you can start thinking about it with that variety.

Laura Arango Baier: 31:56

Yeah, it's almost like you really just have all of these.

Carolyn Anderson: 32:01

Well, I was just gonna say it changes how we see the theme and part of the important point. Absolutely,

Laura Arango Baier: 32:08

yeah. And that that kind of it makes it seem like we're almost like, in order for you to see things. Without, you know, like, completely clearly, it's almost like you have to be like a child and have no preconceived notions about the world around you. So fascinating. Yeah,

Carolyn Anderson: 32:26

there's a little bit of that. But by the same token, you can't because who you are, is everything you've done since you were a child. Okay, so it has to be a combination of the two in a way. So I might look at the sky and pick up on say, a warm or pink color, somebody else might pick up on something else. Because here again, we can see things a little differently, even though even when it comes to well, especially when it comes to color, because that's a real variable. So and then, of course, we know that the color is going to change. So I think a lot of times people are dealing with preconceived ideas or something that they've learned. And that's what they stick with, instead of assessing the information for what it was, what it is and what it can be, or will be. Absolutely, yes. And that universal thing. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 33:24

And I feel like at one point, we've all fallen victim to that. I mean, before you learn to draw, it truly is like that. It's like, I never noticed that this looked like this, you know, like, you take the things around you for granted almost, or like, I guess, because the brain can't really process all of that information. It won't go

Carolyn Anderson: 33:42

well. That's exactly what it is. Yeah, it just

Laura Arango Baier: 33:45

fills in all the gaps for us. So we don't have to worry about that your brain says don't worry about that. You just just keep doing your thing, because we will implode?

Carolyn Anderson: 33:54

Yeah, so that's exactly what it is. There's just a wealth of information out there when we just even consider visual information and discount, you know, any any other information like auditory information or something. So there's a wealth of visual information in order to navigate our way through the world. Each and every day are a bit our brain just simplifies that information, because otherwise it's too much I say our heads would overheat, okay, because it's like a, it's like an energy heat problem. So our brains would get too hot. So if you think because your brain is processing the information, somewhat like a computer would with a JPEG or a raw file, you know, most people are familiar with JPEGs because that's what we use all the time. So it's a condensed version of what a photographer would use, which is a raw file where everything is recorded in a JPEG simplifies that information and makes a file smaller in size. That's basically what our brains

Laura Arango Baier: 34:56

kind of do. Geez. Oh my gosh,

Carolyn Anderson: 34:59

yeah. Do you is me. And so there's obvious obvious what I call symbol information that sometimes we just don't parse out as carefully as we should. So for example, if you set yourself up a still life, and you have an apple in a still life, and you don't want to just look at it and go, Oh, it's red, what color red am I going to use? Now? We're gonna see if there's any other colors bouncing off of it, you know, what's the light because the lights gonna change the color. But you know, our brain has that little I could call it a failsafe mechanism. It's called Color constancy. So no matter what light you are working in, that Apple is always going to look red to you. Yes. Okay. So there, we have to find ways around it. And a lot of times, it's just by describing the information differently. That sets us on a different path of thinking and seeing, which is what's kind of fascinating about it, is our brains are fairly malleable that way. Yeah. So you know, we can kind of direct how we what kind of information we want to see.

Laura Arango Baier: 36:06

Right? And what you just mentioned about the apple that reminds me of might last a life that I did in one of my schools, and I had these red chili peppers. And I grabbed myself some cadmium red, and some lizard crimson. And I went at it. And then I realized, Oh, my God, my chili peppers are too red. And the real ones are actually orange.

Carolyn Anderson: 36:35

Yeah, and the other thing that can happen a lot of times is when you're painting with something with a strong color, you know, something like your chili peppers, or let's say, a really bright colored flower, is that, you know, let's say it's a really bright pink flower. And the more pink we throw at it, the less pink it looks, then, of course, you need a compliment. Because color is always in relationship to another color. And that's how our brain is interpret color to. So without that relationship of other colors. It can couldn't be too much of one thing.

Laura Arango Baier: 37:09

It can. Yeah, I had to repaint.

Carolyn Anderson: 37:14

There you go. Yeah. You weren't paying attention. You were thinking red chili peppers, like probably Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 37:18

I was like, wow, that's like a fire hydrant over here, like, but really, it was definitely more orange leaning. So I ended up grabbing the cat orange and putting some in, then it did look more accurate. But yeah, we definitely do simplify things too much. And now that we jumped on the simplification topic, I came across an article of yours that I fell in love with, I think I read it like three times. And it's the one where you talk about peak shift. It's, uh, do you mind explaining what that is really quick, and then we can dive into that? Yeah,

Carolyn Anderson: 37:56

so that was a post that I wrote a few years back titled The limits of likeness. And I just want to clarify, I always like to give credit where credit is due. So peak shift. That term was described by the neuroscientist Ramachandran vs. Ramachandran, and his book that TellTale Brain, but it was originally termed super normal stimulus in the 1950s by a biology a Dutch biologist. So in my mind, that's just I don't know why I find things like that interesting. But anyway, wrong. Mr. Mondrian described, peak shift, kind of the same way that Tim Berger did the Dutch biologist but that he was a biologist, he was studying gold, herring gull chicks Ramchandra, and took the term and he turned it towards art in people, if you will. And he described it as the hard wiring of the brain to focus on parts of objects that matter the most. So just to clarify there, first of all, as we just were discussing, we don't really see everything, but we see things that we notice things that catches our attention. And so we are more apt to pay attention to those parts of the scene process, those things that are kind of stand out, if you will, that are a little different. So peak shift would go a long ways towards explaining how exaggeration and simplification work in art, any kind of art basically, you know, sculpture, painting, whatever it may be, and you can think of caricature as a good example. So, you know, why do we react to, you know, comic drawings, for example, that are just a simple basic use of line and maybe exaggerating some of these features or whatever it may be. Why are those so powerful? You know that don't have a lot of information in them. It's just that the information that's included, made is both exaggerated and simplified. So we notice it. You know, like I said before, we, we tend to overlook a lot of stuff just because it's, you know, we see it all the time. So, stuff that is things that are just real, real real, if you will. It's like, yawn, you know, yeah, I see this, I see people every day, you know, but something that's a little different, can catch our attention. Now, if you don't want to go towards that caricature aspect, or extreme exaggeration, or whatever, you need to find something in the process, let's talk about your peppers. So you can never recreate those peppers to be the peppers that you've set out on your table, or wherever you are pinning them. You just can't do it. First of all, pigment is one type of color. And light is another. So two different, you know, we've got CMYK, and RGB, the two different processes of processing, light and color and pigment and color. So you can't recreate those peppers. And besides that the peppers have had other things they bring to the table. Like, for example, it could be any association you may have with peppers, you know, such as pot, for example, you know, I smell if you cut a pepper oil, but I mean, we can, you know, in my mind, where I would go with it would be the color, you know, because the color is so strong. So you can't if you accept that you can't recreate a pepper on your canvas, okay, you can't take that three dimensional object that has all kinds of interesting things about it, and recreate that on your canvas, what can you do? So what you want to do is find that, that part that is to you most interesting. So Ramchandran, also went on to describe it as the ancient Sanskrit word rasa, meaning capturing the very essence, or the spirit of something, to evoke some kind of reaction. So if you can't capture the real thing, you need to bring something else to the table. The symbol is the image that you create on your canvas will always be lacking, no matter how. How oriented you are towards every nuance of that pepper. Right. Right. So you need to take it someplace else, if you will, it can still be realistic, you know. But the realism needs to go somewhere in a slightly different direction.

Laura Arango Baier: 42:44

Exactly. Yes. I mean, I did at one of the schools that I studied, I did have, I guess, instructors and people who explained that, yes, you know, you can try your best to imitate reality. But you can never fully copy it, just like you're saying. And also because we are so limited, right? The spectrum of light is so much greater than the spectrum. Yeah, so there's absolutely no way so you might as well just, you know, conceptualize it in a different way. And I completely agree with that. And I think it's all one thing.

Carolyn Anderson: 43:20

I was just gonna say it's all smoke and mirrors, we're dealing we're basically dealing with illusion on campus. We are whether it's realistic illusion or not. So if you throw out if you throw out the idea that you cannot recreate something, you know, I do this in my workshops, or, you know, if we have a model sitting there, I said, you cannot recreate this person on the canvas, I'm sorry, you could draw her faithfully, you could you know, you can work for years to recreate, you know, good value, contrast and Penny, but there's always something, you know, extra and that's sometimes separates painters out. So, yeah, it's smoke and mirrors. And if you accept the fact that that's what it is to begin with, it kind of opens another doorway for you. And this isn't real anyway, if it's not real, then, you know, by golly, I'm gonna put a little bit more of me in there. Yes,

Laura Arango Baier: 44:13

exactly. And I also wanted to mention now that you, you talk about, you know, how it expands that horizon, right? Every and I love seeing paintings except, for example, by Rembrandt or DaVinci. Because I remember when I was in school, I would look at them. And I would say to myself, no one looks like that. Absolutely. No one on Earth looks like the people in these in these paintings. But these paintings are so memorable. Anyway, you know, no one looks like the girl with the hearing. Like it's, yeah, she's she's like, and, like a higher form of of something, you know, it's like, yes, exactly.

Carolyn Anderson: 44:56

It's the symbol but it's a it's not a symbol at I've seen Red Apple symbol, which is our basic, our basic visual language, if you think what a kid would would come up with on a drawing, you know, you can never get away from the impact of some of those that early learning has kind of put into our brains. So to go on and create a symbol that is, so it's like, a historical novel or something, it's so much more than, than just a picture of somebody. Right? So yeah, that's what we get. It's a painting. It's not a picture of somebody, it's a painting, it becomes something else. Right? Yes, that's pretty powerful.

Laura Arango Baier: 45:42

It is. And the other fascinating thing that I really want to know is, how does one achieve that this one? So like, for example, I have a model in front of me, right? What I like for based on what you're telling me, right, I would probably look at the model and say to myself, What is the most prominent feature? And how can I, you know, use this as their essence? Is that what you would recommend, or?

Carolyn Anderson: 46:07

No, I? Personally, I don't and I think Sarge, I would disagree, you know, you had to paint all those society, women. People want to do what they're most prominent feature. That's not going to work. But okay, just speaking of Sergeant, so let's use let's use some, you know, because most everybody can draw off of a visual of, you know, they can think of a visual of a Sargent painting. So, if you think of, you know, almost any Sargent painting, especially maybe one of his portraits or multifeed, your portraits, what we have is simplification. Number one. So he's simplified a lot of the information, especially in the values and the faces. Yeah. You know, everything isn't. It's not like a photograph would be real. But it's, you know, it could be like almost a overexposed in the lights perhaps, and underexposed in the dark, you know, so he has that simplification. But yet, he includes the fluidity of brushwork, you know, that was a strong aspect of his painting, which takes it to a whole other place. So in other words, when he's painting some of these arm, he's not just painting an arm, he's painting the information that reads as an arm, but it's just as likely to be a brilliant brushstroke, or a simplification of the value or, you know, you could go on and art description, but there's always something there, and we're all going to bring something else. Something different, slightly different to the table when we look at paintings like that. But you can see where it's, it's, you know, I like to look at work like that and say, Okay, well, how did he transition this color? Or how did he modify this edge? Or how did he give the appearance of these figures going back in dimensional space? Instead of just thinking I'm going to try and create dimensional space. So there's a lot of information out there you can use as references. Sergeant certainly had a Greeno Sergeant Zorn and soya, they certainly had a grasp on doing that type of painting. With a design aspect. Yes. into it. Yeah. And so then that takes it to a whole different place. Right.

Laura Arango Baier: 48:39

Yeah. And just just to clarify, I meant by prominent feature, I would also be under the impression that I want to flatter my sitter, I would not take the rest of the thing and like make them feel worse about it.

Carolyn Anderson: 48:51

Yeah. I like I like feeding man, that's calm. I, you know, I started out with more paintings of, say, women, and but I prefer man, because you know, you can exaggerate their features. Like, perhaps they'll have this friend who I painted multiple times and also an artist, but he had the greatest big, black, bushy eyebrows. I just love that. Because, you know, I could kind of run with it. And because, as I as I would tell my students, a lot of times I'd say, you know, you can exaggerate the features that a man because here's the good part, they aren't going to say anything about it. Yes, that's true. You know, they're just gonna zip it. They're different. But men can Well, it goes back to a basic structural thing. Men features are stronger. They're more pronounced than women. You know, women are generally noses stronger in a generally have thicker eyebrows. So you have features that are a little bit more fun to work with. Yeah, that's

Laura Arango Baier: 49:55

true. I definitely agreement can go pretty good. Yeah, like women and children, I think are the most challenging since they're so exact. And so I guess, yeah, you have to be as exact as possible and trying to get that, you know, likeness of the child or the woman. And then also you want to flatter them.

Carolyn Anderson: 50:18

So here's my direction on painting, children, because I have painted a lot of kids, people think I like his or something I don't, they're just kind of children wishing to paint. And basically, first of all, you have to accept that a young child has just this kind of round head. So, you know, they can go cute, too easily. So my challenge, you know, I like to set up challenges in a way, you know, just thought challenges, if you will, or painting challenges. So in painting a child at all costs, now someone may come along and think that one of my paintings is cute, that at all costs, I will, I will just disregard or just throw that idea out the window that what I'm set up to do here, I won't go. Oh, my goodness, that kid is so cute. I just have to paint that. No, because that's a horrible premise debate base a painting on? So yeah, throw cute out the window, go for it, children have a universal quality to them. That is really fascinating. You know, so it's, that's kind of what I go for.

Laura Arango Baier: 51:28

I love that. And that makes perfect sense. I agree. I feel like a lot of children look exactly the same. But then, sometimes I feel that way about normal people's like not normal people. But like adults, I feel like their faces also kind of look the same if you really like, think about it. But I find it Yeah, I find it fascinating to with the with the peak shift how, and also, especially because you mentioned sergeant and I love Sergeant because he was the type of person who he would get that likeness without being photographic. You know, he wasn't trying to write like he had that philosophy of you recognize your friend from a block away without having to see their eye color or having to see, you know, any specific details. You see the face from far away. And you know, it's like, oh, yeah, that's Charles. That's my feet. Charles.

Carolyn Anderson: 52:17

Yeah, exactly. You know, we need to ask ourselves, a lot of times when we go to paint, it's kind of like, well, what's important here, and then you have to decide, of course, what's important to you as the painter, you know? And go from there. But yeah, it's, it's not the detail. So an interesting note of detail. And the way we see, the only reason we think we see in detail is because our eyes are constantly moving period in the story, because your detailed vision is in the very center of your eye. And if you held your arm out and look at your thumbnail, the size of your thumbnail is about your detailed vision. Oh, wow, your arm held straight out in front of you. Yeah, that little tiny area. That's your detail vision. So anything outside of that as your peripheral vision. And so the only reason we think we see everything is detailed is because our eyes are always moving, and they don't have to move a lot, you know, to see to go from one detail area to another detail area. But what we disregard is the importance of our peripheral vision, which is just very impactful. And here's a little science note, if you will, that our peripheral vision is better at assessing value shifts than our detailed vision.

Laura Arango Baier: 53:45

Wow. That makes sense. Yeah.

Carolyn Anderson: 53:48

So it's important to keep that in mind when you're painting. Something to do as an exercise, which is kind of fascinating, is when you're looking at some things. Don't deliberately focus your eyes on just one thing, just kind of relax, relax your eyes as much as possible while staring straight ahead and allow yourself to take in as much of the visual field around you without just getting caught up in a detail area. You know, and it's just a an interesting way of looking at visual information without just going in for the kill, if you will, and going in for that detail.

Laura Arango Baier: 54:27

Yeah BoldBrush We inspire artists to inspire the world because creating art creates magic, and the world is currently in desperate need of magic. BoldBrush provides artists with free art marketing, creativity and business ideas and information. This show is an example. We also offer written resources, articles and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush and if you believe that to sign up completely free BoldBrush That's B OLDBRUSH The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be a professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special link, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly, e commerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor, the art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today, right now, in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes, so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life, and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link forward slash podcast. That's Forward slash podcast. Yeah, I think also, I really like to compare, you know, paintings pre camera and post camera. Because I Yeah, the camera has also really affected how we take in information, because obviously painters are all we had before. And they had to condense information in a way that was, I guess, I want to see more beautiful, or in a way that's more elegant, or obviously, I mean, they were hired by either the church or patrons to to, essentially flatter them or to make beautiful images for them. So of course, they're going very different. Today, though, with with the camera. I feel like since cameras capture so much more, but also less at the same time. And I want to clarify that cameras. They do capture every pore on someone's face, but they do not capture nuance of color. I feel like that's, that's where it is also. Yeah. Yeah. And it has. Yeah, so I feel like today, we are so bombarded with images that are so crisp, very crisp, very detailed, that I think that shows also in the newer paintings that have been made. I feel like a lot of people are painting very tight. Almost like, you know, when when, for example, like Rembrandt, when he first started painting, he painted very, very tight. And you mentioned that actually in the limits of likeness article How, in order for him to have learned how to simplify his strokes later on down the line, he did have to learn how to be very precise and accurate at first. But I think today people are just staying with the accurate and keeping to it a lot. Yeah.

Carolyn Anderson: 57:55

Yeah. Yeah, I noticed that. I won't even call it a brilliance of color, but an oversaturation of color, and a lot of attention to detail. Now, that's not to say that you can't take that information and make a good painting out of it. But I think the problem could lie in the intent. Yes. So you know, if the intent is, by golly, I'm gonna make a picture, you know, it's gonna be lacking in this dollar is to it. So it's always gonna live and die as a, as a picture, and not a painting, you know, if it's going to be a painting it has to bring something of the person is painting it, you know, it has to it has to rise to a different level, it has to have a little bit of that peak shift somewhere. So I don't the one thing I wonder about is, how much is affecting not just how we paint, but how we see. Which is kind of an interesting concept. Because, you know, people would say, Well, geez, you know, our eyes see that didn't know our brain interprets the information as to what it has learned to consider it important. So if we're bombarded with images all the time, that are very detailed, supersaturated oriented, how does that affect us? I don't know. It's, but if you go back in time, you mentioned that looking historically, so you know, pre camera, and after camera, I find it fascinating that period, when cameras came out, you know, when the 1800s and then we have that period of time in there, from let's say, the mid 1800s to, you know, turn of the century there into the 1900s. And you look what's kind of fascinating to me, is the simple cut, citation and the exaggeration of value patterns in that kind of early photographers photography, as compared to the paintings that we're all So a lot of the paintings that were taking place at the same time, you get you get a lot of similarities there. With the exception. Of course, when we get to the Impressionists, then, because color theory was a huge thing at that point of the 1800s. I mean, as all kinds of new colors were being invented, left and right, it was basically an industrial sized manufacturing process. So we had a lot of dyes and new colors were being invented, and all kinds of things were coming out. So color was this huge thing. Yeah, well, exactly. That's what allowed the artists to go out in the field and paint was the paint tool. Without that they what would they be doing? You know, they'd have to make up their paints in these little bags, and then take them out. And anyhow. So that was a big shift. And then you could see the intent of the Impressionist wasn't to recreate reality, obviously, it wasn't to interpret color and light. And that's what they brought to the table, which is pretty amazing. But if you look at the portraiture, for example, not the Impressionist work, but, you know, when we start talking about Sargent Zorn, and those guys, and the simplification of value patterns, we see that in the photography at the time, too. Yes, I mean, because that was just the technology. That's the way the photographs work. So the old photographs are just really kind of inspiring to our eyes, because our photographs have too much information.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:27

I completely agree. I have I think I have a whole Pinterest board. And it's only photography from very early days because of that. Yeah, it's um, it's very low res. But at the same time, it's low res enough for It also simplifies, and it has that peak shift effect. Yeah, which is why also I think, like, for example, Bouguereau, he used to use photography, for his his paintings, and his paintings are obviously not exactly to the tee, like the photograph. But a lot of artists at that time, they definitely took a lot from that photography, because they knew how to use

Carolyn Anderson: 1:02:05

it, God did the same thing. So yeah. But then if you look at the work, you know, the work that he did was different, done differently. It wasn't done that super realism, you know, or so. But But yeah, photography was impactful there too. And it makes perfect sense. I mean, there's nothing wrong with photography for heaven's sakes, you know, if you've got a suit that I call painting from the model, a lot of times like, the deer in the headlights look, you know, I find it real distracting. And it just doesn't it just, you know, I'd rather be able to catch a moment that you can interpret, instead of, like I said, the deer in the headlights look. And then there's a lot of subject matter that's difficult to work with without having some kind of photo reference. So for example, I paint a lot of horses, like racehorses, you know, moving horses. So that's really difficult to do without some kind of reference. But anyhow, it can be a tool, but it just depends on how dependent we are on it. You know, I mean, they guy used it creatively. That's for sure. A lot of those artists, I think, at the time, if they were using photography, they certainly did it in a creative way.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:22

Yes. And it goes back to what you said too, about having a certain intent, right? It's like what am I intending to do and definitely was not copying reality. He was almost romanticizing reality. Like when I think of his, for example, his paintings of the ballerinas, right. i It's, it looks romantic. It looks impactful, like I can picture the image because it's that, you know, symbolic and beautiful compared to, you know,

Carolyn Anderson: 1:03:52

being to females, what's interesting about that, is that you can read lots of criticism of degas's work, or these people say, Well, he hated women. And, you know, these paintings are just shows how much he didn't regard. Women, of course, the dancers at the time, you know, ballet dancers, and were oftentimes lower class women. And sometimes, so it wasn't the elite that we have now in dance, you know, we're dancers are. So a totally different thing. But that's neither here nor there. Because you can obviously see when you look at it, they got painting that he was in love with line and shape, and value and color. Yes, period in a story, that that well, that was his story. And you can see that that's what he was in love with. Absolutely. The subject matter was sometimes incidental, I think.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:04:50

Yeah. Um, and, you know, there is something that makes sense to with it, because when I imagine this paintings, you know, there's that theatrical or nature to being on the stage right? You have those stage lights just beating down on on the faces of the dancers and really lighting up their tutus. I think I would. I mean, obviously, I'm not the guy. But I love that. Right? Because it's beautiful, in fact, and it captures something more than just Oh, yeah, here's here's a nice painting of a ballerina. Which you know, today, I think we were talking about this just before we were recording. Today, we're so bombarded with images and with with so much information, that I think sometimes people forget what it's like to really dive into the essence how we're saying like with peak shifts, it's hard to dive into and like find that depth and how we were saying about Google how like, Google keeps us at surface level, and even sometimes can miss inform us. Whereas if we dive in a little deeper, and we, you know, maybe read a few more articles, or look a little more deeply at something not even deeply added, but deeply within us about it, if that makes sense. Like, you have to look inside of you to be able to see the thing, and what you're trying to say about it, where you're trying to interpret. And I think that's the challenging part of being a painter and creating a beautiful image.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:06:19

I think we have to look, we have to look for the connections. Don't assume that whatever patterns that you are perceiving, are the end all be all, that there are probably under lying patterns, they're even more interesting, if you will, or nuanced connections, that are more interesting than the obvious connections and information. So, you know, it's just like, when I go to work on a painting, I'm oftentimes looking at how one area connects to another, not at, for example, okay, here's a horse. So I mentioned I've been doing these, at this point, I should curse them out. But these small, I've done them over the years off and on. But anyway, these, like racehorses, or polo ponies are interesting, because it's the subject matter where you have, a lot of times I'll have two horses in a very small space. So you've got eight friggin legs. And you have, you have to think that, you know, okay, how important are all these legs, you know, so I've often said, you know, you can, you can have a convincing painting of a horse with only three legs, actually, as long as they have just a slight unwanted value somewhere where someone would expect it to be another leg to be, so you don't have to pain at all. So it's a matter of trying to find the simplification of the information, while leaving it chaotic enough to be interesting, and reflect on what's actually happening. So it's a matter of looking for different information, not just you know, here's a horse, you know, let me draw a horse. I don't care about drawing a horse. Thank you very much. Oh,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:08:07

my gosh, no, but that, that makes a great point. Because it's kind of like how in, in the, I guess in the older paintings, they would really make a hand look like a hand it. If you really look at them, the way they painted hands, it doesn't really look like a hand. But reads this one. Yeah, especially when you look at like events, a lot of

Carolyn Anderson: 1:08:27

times, if you take it if you take the information out of context. And that's sometimes a good way to look at other paintings, let's say an art books or something, take some of those areas of information out of context. In other words, they be enlarged as a certain area of the painting. It'll give you a whole new perspective about what you know, quote, air quotes, painting reality is all about, because you're right, absolutely. Some of that information, when you start parsing it out, you kind of go, well, that really doesn't look like a ham. It's the same way with the horses. So what I need to look for are the connections, not the things that make everything different. Like here's an, a horse leg with air around it, it's like, well, how does that horse leg fit onto the plane of the painting? You know, two dimensional surface? So do I use it as a symbol? Or an element of design? Or as an actual thing that has three dimensional space? I don't know. So there's a lot of variables there. Right?

Laura Arango Baier: 1:09:33

Yeah. And then that's also the side that leaves so much room for interpretation, you know, from different people and the ways that they want to do something which I think is also what makes it really beautiful. And the other thing that I found fascinating because you did an article actually might have been I can't remember which article it was but you mentioned then cine in it and how he used this crazy

Carolyn Anderson: 1:09:57

contraption with Greta Hola, yes,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:10:01

that is so fascinating. And it kind of reminds me of the, I guess, like some of the armatures that maybe they use using the Renaissance or even like the big boards with like the squares, right, so that they could accurately create something. Yeah. Yeah. How do you feel about Yep? Sorry? How do you feel about those armatures? And do you? Do you find them to be useful as a tool for artists?

Carolyn Anderson: 1:10:28

Um, well, like anything else. I, it depends. It depends on the painter, and the painting. So for example, I don't see the value of those kinds of things in smaller paintings necessarily. But in larger, larger spaces, more complex spaces, add some fun, sometimes helpful to you divide up your space, so to speak, to deal with it. And so I think the, the most common, but probably not used by professional artists, armature would just be the big basic horizontal and vertical grid, which is a useful tool for transferring a smaller image to a larger canvas. And that's basically what it's for. That was the basis of mantoni. Braddock Cola, which was kind of fascinating. So just for those people who don't know what it was, and teeny, we're talking turn of the century, same time as Sergeant, Sergeant called him, the, what was it the, basically, the best painter ever are in at that time working at that time. So, and that was Sergeant talking about mentioning, which is fascinating. But use me as he got to this point. Now, it's kind of fascinating, because if you look at his early, his early work, he went to art school at a very young age, he was extremely talented. He was doing just incredibly beautiful paintings in his early 20s. Just just amazing, later point in life, and he suffered from mental illness. So this is probably part of it. He started using what he referred to as a reticle. And it was made up of horizontal grid, very tightly spaced somewhat. But he would put a grid in front of his model, and then another grid in front of his painting. And then he'd take and he would strip, put new string or whatever, and run all these horizontals all over the grid in front of the model, and then mimic it on the one in front of this painting is fascinating. And the important thing about the graddic colada, the takeaway on that is the use of diagonals. So let me get back to diagonals in a second. But anyhow, and you have to ask yourself, because the guy could draw, I mean, he's, you know, his paintings from his early 20s, obviously said he knew what he was doing, he could do it just as good as anybody. But for some reason, he decided that he needed that radical. And I think in that case, that was just his structure that kept him focused. And, of course, I did mention, you know, he was mentally ill, he had a lot of problems. That Sergeant fact tried to help them, you know, deal with, but that was probably his structure, he needed that focus. Because he certainly didn't need it to draw anything out on the canvas. But so so if we look at any kind of armature, or as some kind of structure to build off of, then it can be helpful, like, as I said, especially in something complex, something very large, especially, you know, a very large canvas. And so, but the important takeaway is a diagonal, because no matter how you look at it, visualize a horizontal and vertical grid. It is nothing if not boring, right? There's, there's nothing interesting about horizontal and vertical grip. So it does become interesting. However, once you start using diagonals on your canvas. And of course, that's so that's not only a good structural tool for dividing up your space, in an interesting yet stable way, but also for drawing, and that's what I use those diagonals for drawing somewhat like, you know, I have to look in hindsight like, men cheated with the, the horizontal. So he would, for example, take a horizontal mark on his Gratical on the horizontal vertical grid, and take it let's say from the top of the model of head, maybe down the profile of nose and down to wherever maybe it hit on the elbow or something in it because it just making connections is all it's doing. But it's a really useful tool for drawing, because we are very good at visually looking at angles and mimicking them, or looking at spaces and comparing them. So if you use diagonals as a drawing tool, instead of outline drawing, you know, around some kind of form, you'll find that it's way more dynamic. So an armature can be useful. It can also be a crutch, so anything like that you have to use with caution. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:15:35

yeah, that's a great point. The armature that I really enjoy, and I loved his grad Cola, by the way, when I saw that, because you in the article, image. Oh, it's so crazy, because that explains the some of the marks that he had left on his painting that just looked shaky and strange, like, why are there these sharp edges like in these random spots? Now, it all makes sense.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:15:59

Well, he would later paintings in another clarification on when he was using his later paintings, and he's really dependent on that reticle. But he would start embedding like pieces of sign aware and things like that into his paint for texture. And you could see that taking place in his his later paintings. So basically, that parada cola gave him the freedom to do just about anything within the confines or the parameters of realism. Mm hmm. That makes sense. So the paint application was crazy. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:16:36

Yeah, it was. I mean, I remember when I was in Italy, I saw there was this painting, he did have this woman, and she had a bunch of jewels or necklaces on, and there was this reflective sphere in front of her. And I thought it was the most crazy thick, like, the texture was just off the charts on it. And then when I looked at an earlier mentioned it like, this is the same guy.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:16:59

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Wow.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:17:02

That's amazing. But I totally agree. I feel like I think one of the least talked about components of painting, especially, I mean, I'm coming from a background in like realism. And also I have a very deep interest in multi figural narrative paintings. So for me, obviously, when I look at an armature, I'm like, Oh, this makes sense. You know, if I take like, for example, a Solomon J. Solomon, like his painting of Samson, I, I actually took that painting, and I put the, I forget what the name of the specific armature is, but it's the one that Titian used to use. And when I put it, it made so much sense. Yeah, yeah. And I feel like composition is something that isn't really talked about enough. In general, I guess, because, you know, not many people, like people tend to use the the more simplified thirds or, you know, the, or even like, organic curves, compared to those strict sort of, like, armatures that these use before. How do you personally feel about composition? And do you think it should be talked about more, or, I mean, I know composition is kind of a heavy topic, because it's, it's not just, you know, the image, like, parts of you mentioned, so many things, you know, color value, etc, put together,

Carolyn Anderson: 1:18:18

no push comes to shove, it still comes down to unity, variety, and balance. That's what you need in the painting. So and basically, that's because if you will, you're creating something new, or, you know, it can be another world for all we know, I mean, not not, you know, visual, Lee, another world as a Neptune or Venus or whatever, but you're creating your own segments. So it needs to have a reflection of all those things that are inherent to, to how we relate to the natural world. And that still comes down to unity, variety, and balance. So when it comes to my own work, I have a love hate relationship with composition, in the sense that we're very predictable. We can be very predictable on composition. That's why a lot of times, you know, artists will change things up by going to, let's say, instead of a rectangular space, we go to a square space, you know, because all of a sudden, now, everything is just a little differently. And it forces you to see and paint things perhaps a little differently. Or maybe doing Head Shoulders study on a horizontal Canvas instead of a vertical Canvas, you know, so it's helpful to kind of switch things up once in a while. But the problem I have is that a lot of people think that these compositional guidelines, if you will, our rules, you know, just definite. And I've seen so many paintings go arrived because for example, someone has been told, don't put anything ever in the middle of your canvas. So as I've seen people do portrait paintings, and they sent them off to one side with no intent or idea of what the heck, they're going to do with the little sliver of space on the left hand side of the canvas and all the space on the right hand side of the canvas. And they probably would have been better just to stick that, that, that head or whatever, in the middle of that vertical canvas, and then modify the canvas with their use of values. So it's not about the object. So we get caught up with the whole idea that these these paintings are all No, it's how you interpret that into line shape, value, color. And you can use all those elements to modify how the canvas is balanced, or you know what kind of dynamic balance by balance, I mean, dynamic balance, not even balanced, you know, not symmetrical balance, but asymmetrical balance. So you can use the line face value, color, but I've seen so many people go off in strange directions, or the proverbial Creek, starting at the bottom of the canvas and winding its way back through the painting up to Heaven only knows what in so any of those paintings that when I look at, and personally, I feel as if I'm like a cow with a ring through my nose being dragged around the canvas, then I have a problem. Because that's when someone's following there, they're considering that these are rules, and they have to follow them exactly instead of creatively. Right. So just like you use, you use the tools at hand, to your own in so to speak.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:21:45

Wow, that, that's, you know, you make a very good point also with the symmetry, because obviously, you have an article on that as well. And I loved it, how the brain gets very bored by perfect symmetry, and too much asymmetry too exhausting for the brain to process. So there's like that balance of a little bit of symmetry. But then at the same time, you have to create that interest in in the asymmetrical or in the contrast or I mean, there's so like, again, it comes down to that visual language that you keep talking about, of course, the importance of guiding the eye, how you're saying, like, I don't want to get dragged around in Canvas, either, I want to know exactly where I'm supposed to go. And I want to let my eye go from there. So those are very good points to make. Well,

Carolyn Anderson: 1:22:35

it's the difference between enough information you don't you know, not all paintings need to shock, if you will, you know, they don't have to be super challenging it because a lot of times we like paintings, let's say like toneless paintings that are kind of easy on the eye. But by the same thing, by the same token, we our attention is not held by something that's exceedingly predictable. I mean, it's, it won't hold our attention, you just kind of go on yawn. And the point of this is what you know. So So you have to have something, and it can be nuanced. It can be overt it, you know, there's a lot of different ways here to deal with it. But you have to have something that is ultimately interesting. And now what is the other thing to keep in mind, for all the people who paint out there is what you may find interesting, there will be some other people that find interesting, also, that you cannot paint for everyone. In other words, there will be painting out there who don't find what you do interesting at all. So that's fine. Just accept that at the outset and move on. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:23:46

that's a very great point to make. Yeah, um, what matters is, you know, what matters to you. And that's it. I mean, never pay for other people. Yeah.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:23:57

Yeah, you know what, and that's what's amazing about a lot of them historical painter, painters, and even started, for example, because they were painting for other people. And so when you look at the challenge of painting for someone else, you know, someone else has to like this painting. And I think that's why so many of those historical painters. There were some of them that that rose, you know, above and beyond, if you will, because they were challenging themselves. Who did not only do a painting, that would be acceptable, but they were moving the visual dialogue forward in a way that became acceptable.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:24:43

Yeah, that makes sense. They had a very, like, it's a little bit like how I mentioned how the camera has really changed the way we perceive and how before they really didn't have that. So it was so much more relying on that organic Understanding and sometimes maybe even erroneous perception of how the eye worked.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:25:06

Yeah, but a lot of it goes down to the acceptability of what a painting was in a historical period of time. You know, so it's difficult sometimes to move out or there was that expectation. But some of those dictators did that.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:25:23

They did. Yeah. I mean, that's also why we even have like, in our history, we have time periods. Right. We have the Baroque. We have Mannerism We have, like, they all have their own set of rules that they follow, you know, how, like Baroque had the scudo. But then when mannerism, they really threw anatomy out the window. But yeah, yeah. But it was all you know, the visual language was, in the end, what mattered in that time period, I guess also following the philosophies, time period, as well. And that, that also makes

Carolyn Anderson: 1:25:58

Yes, yeah, you could never remove everything, you know, from all the pieces, the parts from the pieces or whatever. It's just like, we talked about the Impressionists when the whole idea that color theory was all the rage. And then along comes the paint tube, you know, and the friend sees, Oh, my word. Now these guys who said, I, we want to experience what it's really like to paint light and color, they could actually do it. Well, and it was the same thing. The printing press, you know, when we go back to earlier times, and the printing press came along? Well, a lot of those aren't those publications, not Publications at the time, but the papers that were written about art, you know, from different guild members, or whatever, about how to do this, or how to create one point perspective, all of a sudden, now that information could be printed, and spread far and wide. So that changed everything.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:26:56

Oh, my God. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when I studied art history, or at all? Yeah, you really can't. And it's like you said in your article two, you said that, you know, history itself, in the Art History World as well has just been one big visual language experiment. You know, how it's just gone on and on and on and on and cut today? We I feel like today, it's almost like we've peaked, but at the same time, we have that makes sense.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:27:28

I think there's no, I don't know, today is kind of strange. To tell the truth, you know, this period of art, there's, I don't know, it's interesting, but I didn't want to point out, you know, we talked about Okay, so the paint tube and the Frenchie. So the evolution of the use of perspective on a two dimensional surface, which was, you know, that was basically like an architectural discovery, creating perspective on a two dimensional surface, but it was spread far and wide, by the fact that the printing press, well, the other thing that we had happening back then, was the change from tamper to oil paint. I guess that was a huge change and how real paintings were, when that change was made from the use of tempera paint, to the use of oil paint two totally different types of mediums with their temper had so many limitations. So oil paint, now we had an open time, we could, they could go back in and model colors, you know, they could layer. They could glaze, they could do all kinds of things that weren't available. So all of a sudden, real became very real. Or their perception of it. Yeah. So that was due to that change in paint. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:28:50

Yeah. And actually, a lot of beautiful paintings came from that time period. Like, again, I'm gonna mention Hans on pain because he's got I'm obsessed with his his paintings of the royal family, you know, the British family. royalty, because they were, I look at them, like, how did he do that without a picture? Like this dude. It was it's really fascinating how he really captured these people in such a living type of way without all the tools that we have today. You know, it's fascinating. Yeah. Yeah. Now we are reaching the end of the conversation. I'm so, so upset about that, though, because I would love to keep talking to you all day about this. This is such a fascinating topic. Do you have any final advice for maybe someone who's just starting out learning how to draw Do you have any advice for a person who wants to improve and they're just figuring it out?

Carolyn Anderson: 1:29:55

Yeah, well, if you're just starting on that drawing thing, just remember that Drawing is a skill that can be taught Period, end of story, you know, work on it. That that's, you know, we can't forget that Betty Edwards book drawing on the right side of the brain, I'm sorry. But sure, it's it's drawing at its most most basic. But let's not disregard the fact that she takes people who are have absolutely no drawing ability whatsoever. And within a week's time has them drawing self portraits. So drawing is a skill that can be taught, you just have to work at it. It's all about learning to see, which is what she covers in her book, it's not just the process of drawing so much as the scene thing, it's all about seeing. So growing, you can learn work on it, you know, and the more you draw, the better you get. That's all there is to it. But I think some of the best advice is, number one, if you're starting out painting, or you're even at the beginning stages, keep your palette relatively limited, until you're understand color temperature warmer, cooler, and how to mix colors, and how to maybe paint without black or umber. You know, if you can do that, then you're going in the right direction, but you want to learn that skill set. Before you become too involved with going oh, I have to buy this tube of turquoise, it's so beautiful, you know, or whatever it may be. So keep your palette simple. And then make sure that you if you want to do larger paintings fine and dandy, but make sure you are doing smaller studies consistently because I think that's the biggest problem with a lot of people. They'll paint I'll run into people and say, Oh, I haven't painted in a while I was working on this painting. And it was so hard. Well, yeah, just go in and do some small, have fun with it, you know, go and paint an apple, paint a red pepper for heaven's sakes, paint two red peppers. Throw an orange in there, I don't care, but just do some small work. Just to keep improving your skill set your ability to mix colors, to see to know values, you know, just all that kind of stuff. Don't hang it all on some big elaborate painting. Oh, I had this image in my head. I was gonna do this 24 By 36 Would it blow for heaven's sakes, you know, learn how to paint versus just a bunch of small paintings. Do them all the time. And don't overwork them. If you have to set a clock set a timer. Wow. That's my best advice.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:32:35

Oh, it's great. I love it.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:32:38

Yeah, I mean, that's the easiest way to keep painting is just don't take too many expectations on yourself. Just look at as, as drawings, if you will, you know, we know that to learn drawing, you just have to do lots of drawings. And so what happens? People take drawing classes and they buy some kind of cheat paper, like newsprint or whatever, because they know that they're going to be thrown away a lot of this stuff, right? I mean, if you're a little bit more skilled, you're going to use better paper. But so you want to do the same thing with painting. And so don't go out and just buy yourself a whole bunch of expensive canvases. For heaven's sakes, you can take some matte board and put a coat of Jessel on it or whatever, just something you know, anything that's, you know, is it isn't expensive, that you don't mind throwing away because what happens a lot of times somebody will go, oh, I paid $18.95 For this canvas. And by golly, I'm gonna make it work. Well. Sorry. That's no way to make a painting. So oh

Laura Arango Baier: 1:33:35

my god. I never drawn my expensive sketchbooks. Oh, even though I know how to draw, I still have that. panic mode of this is a beautiful sketchbook I don't want to ruin it.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:33:48

Yeah, I know, isn't it funny, we just, we can't we get too caught up with paintings. It's the same way with paintings that we hold on to forever and ever because I'm sorry, everything we make is not good. That's all there is to it. I don't care how good an artist you are. Everything that you put your hand to is not sacred for heaven's sakes. You know, if you have to stash it and throw it away. I don't care what I call this. We live in a society of refrigerator magnet people everything they think they do needs to go up on the refrigerator. And I just don't agree. I don't think it we need to up the ante. You know, always expect more. But be ready to put something aside and move on. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:34:33

yeah. And you know, Spoken like a true researcher because I mean, that's how it works. You know, not everything is gonna be everything's you know, you have a hypothesis and you test it, you test it, you test it, and it's not always going to turn out. Yes,

Carolyn Anderson: 1:34:46

it's not always gonna turn out like you thought it was going to exactly know and for those paintings that you aren't too sure, set them aside, look at them in a in a week or two weeks or three weeks and then see, you know what, perhaps you need to do that. But for the, just about any painter, you need to have that time just to, you know not to do something that you think, Oh my Lord, You know, I have to make this work because it's just no way to do a good painting. Now we can respect those historical painters, however, who had to please the king, for example, by doing a six by eight foot painting and whatnot. I mean, that's, you know, you give you a whole new perspective on that type of work. But you can thank your lucky stars, that we aren't those people. And we don't have to do that. So there you go.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:35:35

Yeah. Oh, my gosh, yeah. That's a very good point. And I'm sure that those painters were also thrifting their own stuff. I mean, I think a lot of recycled, I mean, even men Chini had, like, oh, I ran out of Canvas. I'm just gonna cover this old painting, you know, like, like you said, nothing is sacred. And it's good to think of it that way. Because we all have that fear of this has to be my next masterpiece. And it's like, does that? Does it really? Yeah. Why do you torture yourself?

Carolyn Anderson: 1:36:06

Yeah, man city would paint on his wall sometimes when you ran out of Canvas? Yeah, that's kind of sad. But

Laura Arango Baier: 1:36:13

yeah, it is. But it is what it is. And at least we have some of his great, great work, you know, out in the world, which is awesome. Exactly. Yeah. And speaking of, where can people find more of your work and your awesome articles?

Carolyn Anderson: 1:36:32

My website is just So that's Carolyn. And on my website, I have on the main menu, there's a category called notebook. And under the notebook tab, I've listed a lot of my posts have tried to put them according to subject matter. So you know, because it's so hard to go on, let's say somebody's blog, and, you know, figure out what you want to read. But this way, you know, there's a heading on color, there's one on creativity, you know, I've tried to kind of organize some of those posts by that by heading, so at least it makes it a little bit easier to see if there's anything you want to look at. Yes. And

Laura Arango Baier: 1:37:18

for me, I wanted to read everything, but I had limited time. But I will definitely continue creating. You're welcome.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:37:27

On my website, you know, I don't have that many paintings that I send out to galleries anymore. And I there's only the one show that I do, which is the American impressionist society, which I'll be judging their show this later this year in Massachusetts, but so there's not much there, but it's listed on my website.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:37:46

Awesome. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Carolyn. I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. And I will think about this conversation probably for the next two years, if not longer.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:38:02

If you run out of things to think about, just give me a call. Oh, I

Laura Arango Baier: 1:38:05

will. Thank you so much.

Carolyn Anderson: 1:38:11

You're welcome.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.