Seeing slowly is essential to the process of painting. Painting requires slow and persistent observation because there is much happening. We are doing at least three things – observing, composing, and painting. When a novelist begins writing a story a similar thing happens. They need to have a plot – a direction and purpose they are trying to achieve or communicate. It is not enough to have a large vocabulary or significant grammatical skills. There needs to be some thought given to how best to communicate this story and what is the specific point of this particular story.
Thinking of a painting as a story sometimes helps because it defines some of the questions to ask. What is the point of this story? Who are the main characters that need to be developed? What is the context in which this happens? What am I trying to achieve with this story? What is necessary or unnecessary to the development of the story?
Paintings are like that – they have a story to tell. There can be many things that are extraneous to the story; that only confuse the observer. In order to follow the plot, there are certain things that must be included. Richard Schmid is a master of this and his technique is done with great economy. He always seems to have a clear idea where he is going, what to include as necessary to the plot, and what is extraneous. A careful observation of his paintings, or watching one of his videos on paintings, is a wonderful learning experience.
Paintings tend to fail when one of these three tasks (observing, composing, and painting) fail. Observation is the foundation the other tasks build on.