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The Psychology of Painting

Van den Steinen is mentioned by Henri Delacroix in his essay entitled “The Psychology of Art” (“Psychologie de l’art”), when referring to the study of some Brazilian tribes and how they envisioned the whole process of painting. Den Steinen expressed the idea, the genius of visual arts resides in the gesture of imitating. This is most obviously noticeable, in his opinion, in the primitive man’s act of quickly drawing the sketch of an animal in motion or expressing a certain attitude. This sketch is almost the continuation of a gesture, and the gesture is almost the continuation of the perception’s constitutive movements.

There are two types of languages within this process of imitation: an abstract language and the vivid, concrete language of art itself. An artist’s writing actually originates in the child’s or the primitive man’s way of drawing. According to Delacroix, childhood age analysts have noticed some specific things. Thus, when observing a child who draws, there are certain elements that may be taken into account. A child who draws has two tendencies: a descriptive tendency and an indicative tendency. In most circumstances, a child uses drawing as a means of indicating a certain place or thing that has made an impression on him. As Rouma once put it, a child’s act of drawing could be considered similar to producing a sort of graphic language. As they grow up, many children develop some other tendencies which are usually typical of drawing beginners, such as the tendency to describe. This may result from the child’s effort to dominate his intellectual scheme and to reach the object’s concrete reality. Then the child can launch onto the synthetic representation of the whole, upon the exact pointing out of the details, or upon the attempt to create the perfect construction. Of course, there are many imperfections at first.

Primitive art also oscillates between schemes and imageries. The concrete realism and the vivid expression of reality sometimes make their way through the abstract conventionalism, by defying the abusive stylization which tends to turn art into a rather intellectual combination of elements. The primitive artist actually discovered colors and landscapes at the exact time he discovered lines and contours. There was no psychological or chronological priority in this respect. In those ancient times, decorative arts implied a certain sense of regularity and proportion. Among the most frequent forms of decorative art of the primitive age, one could definitely mention face painting. Delacroix says that even the incisions made during the process of creating a visual art piece had a certain rhythm for the primitive man.

Imitation, pointing out, self-exposure were all combined at the very beginnings of visual arts. It’s most obvious that visual arts developed its techniques and conquered its means of expression only gradually. We most certainly can feel the difference between Greek primitive sculpture and that of the great epochs, between a primitive and a modern painting. But no matter what the differences in the techniques used and especially in their improvements, visual arts operate upon certain basic data, and their relation to the artist’s intention can help create the aesthetic and artistic pleasure.

The components of painting are on one hand, drawing and shape, and on the other hand, light and colors. The shape of things can very much influence our practical behavior and our calculating intelligence. Philosophers have clearly expressed the connection between geometry and practical, day-to-day life. The same as colors, shapes also can influence our state of mind and way of thinking. For instance, a round room can create a sensation of space and freedom of spirit that a right-angled room may lack, and so on.

Greek painters were very much relying on beautiful shapes. Their painting style resembled sculpting. Words like: contour, line, feature, plan, elevation, section, weight, caliber, profile, silhouette, scheme, and so on, served to designate a shape, when this shape was effectively limited by a certain trajectory. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, a neoclassical French painter, said that painting makes up three quarters and a half of what the actual paining supposes. Drawing is more than merely representing contours. The line, which helps represent certain shapes, is an abstraction of the model.