We learned in elementary school that the letter R is made with one vertical line, a half circle, and a short diagonal. We were also taught how to make letters E and D and that when we combined these three letters, they spelled the word RED. We knew that the actual color red did not appear on our printed page but that when most people read the word, they would see the color mentally.
As we matured, we realized that written abstract symbols trigger predictable thoughts in the mind of a reader. We understood that if we wanted a reader to think of the color red, we must write the correct abstract symbols. For example, writing the letters K-J-W wouldn't work, but R-E-D would. As you and I paint, we must concentrate on the relationships between space, line, value, and color. They are the letters of our artistic alphabet, our 'abstract symbols.'
Let's say that when people look at a certain section of the painting we've just completed, we want them to think that what they see is very far away. We know that our picture surface is flat, and that every patch of color is exactly the same distance from our eyes. However, through our awareness of artistic abstract symbols, we know that we can create illusions of distance so effectively that a viewer would never look at them and think of nearness.
Think about that. The subject matter we depict is not actually on the picture surface any more than the abstract symbol for the color red is the color red. The illusions of the color and the illusion of our subject matter exist only in the mind of the viewer.
Doesn't it make sense then that as we paint, we should devote our full attention to what is actually going to be on the picture surface, rather than what is not? That's what www.artistsworkshop.com and our expanded CD-ROM version of our ART course are all about.