To tell the truth, I have been working on a gallery order and two commissions, both now finished and delivered.
So, with a few hours to spare this evening, I decided no time like the present to write a bit about OBSERVATION:
No matter how much you think you may know about any subject or object, you can never actually spend too much time studying it. I'm not just talking about vaguely looking in your subject's general direction but rather, 'look' and 'analyse' what is actually in front of you. Let's say you have chosen to paint an apple. Without realising it, your brain has already decided what an apple should look like and you will not be taking in the specific details of the actual apple in front of you. When you switch off that mental image, you'll begin to notice your subject's 'local' colour [i.e. is it predominately green or red or a mixture of both?]. What tiny marks or imperfections does it have and is it bathed in natural or artificial light [natural light leans towards blue and artificial light, unless you are using a daylight bulb, will be yellowish]. What surface is it sitting on, does that reflect any colour back onto the apple and, what colour is the 'cast shadow' [shadows are never just black]? Once I get my act together, I will start posting photographs, sketches and 'paintings in progress' to explain all this and cover shadows in more detail.
Take breaking waves for example - I have absolutely no idea how many hours I've just sat watching, studying the form of each wave as it rolls in, what the foam patterns look like and making mental notes about how the sky colour and the light reflects off each surface and so on. You would think I'd be rather an expert on the subject but you would be wrong. Two days ago down at the beach, with coffee in hand, a particular pattern of light reflections in front of each wave suddenly caught my attention. Why had I not noticed this before? Simple really - light changes so much with each weather condition and I had never witnessed this particular combination.
In short, you never can take too much time observing everything around you. The amazing thing is that, the more you look, everything takes on new meaning in the world around you and the way you 'see' things is so much more interesting and exciting!