Viewing the painting = Reliving that Moment

art classes Europe SeeingCurrently in Europe; Studio Italia has ended, about to start Atelier Provence. One of our blog subscribers, a docent at the National Gallery of Canada, recently finished reading Michael Findlay’s Seeing Slowly; Looking at Modern Art (Prestel Publishing, 2017), and noticed that there was maybe a link between what he had just read and our recent post on time. He proposed us this text, and we said “why not” since it deals exactly what we try to do at Walk the Arts, letting go in plein air painting through authenticity. Of course, the text is indeed interesting. After an stimulating exchange, here is the final text. Thank you and to you, Robert Sauvé.

Here’s a curious paradox: stopping time by painting quickly. Can one set a trap to catch the moment’s impression? Can the artist’s canvas trap the beauty and the wonder of observed events which melt all too quickly in the flow of time? Can time be halted?   Yes, says Michael Findlay, obviously, this is what artists do. So too, the viewing of art requires “halting” the flow of time. This is the key idea of Michael Findlay’s reflections in his latest book on art appreciation. Time seems to stand still for viewers who dwell on works of art in a slow and measured way (i.e. longer than the average ten or so seconds per painting that galleries have measured as the visitor viewing time). Only then can a different and more personal viewing experience emerges. It takes time to appreciate the ‘plein air’ artist’s mission to grab that moment. The authenticity of the artist’s “capture” slowly emerges as one’s eyes, feelings and imagination dwell on a  work of art. It takes time for the viewing of art to become an art viewing event; such an event is the gold standard of a successful art gallery visit.

The impressionist’s spontaneous painterly reaction suggests that his work is quickly done with the goal of holding still a view of the moment.   Getting the sun, the shade, the light … in a word, getting nature’s mood just right at that moment.   No time to lose.   At any moment one risks losing that mood.   Skill, technique and confidence are key, but so is spontaneity … and speed.   And for this to occur one has to fully let go, even to forget who he or she is. One has to be in the moment to get it on the canvas as quickly as possible.   We know, for example, from artists such as Monet and Pissarro that in any one morning many such grabs were done — as the sun moved, as shadows shortened, as clouds drifted in.   Monet’s Rouen’s Cathedrals or the Gare Saint-Lazare series give witness to this compelling attraction for the moment.   For the Impressionists the goal was not so much to generate a series of paintings as it was to get the feel of the moment just right, to be authentic; their main objective was to trap an ephemeral ‘impression’, to grab the moment, to grab the uniqueness of “that’ moment, a painterly carpe diem.

What the artist does in one manner (i.e. by quickly capturing an ephemeral perception) is mirrored differently by the art viewer (i.e. a more leisurely focus enables the welling up of the mood of the moment captured by the artist). In this way, the beholder who slows their viewing time can “grab that moment” as well.   They would be able to appreciate the impressionist’s skill and confident execution by simply reversing the process – by letting the spirit of the artist’s capture emerge in its own good time. This takes time.   Findlay tells the story of a young girl preferring to sit at the centre of an Impressionist exhibition explaining that she would rather let the colours come to her rather than her go to the colours. Later she would gravitate to the paintings that sparked added interest. But first she was taking her time, letting the pictures, the images, the stories, the colours come to her.   She put aside all the prior agreements of how art viewing should be done.

For Findlay, art viewing ought not be an exercise of sorting visual experiences based on art-viewing conventions. Rather, we have to set aside frameworks of interpretation.   And for that to occur, we must believe in ourselves; we must tame whatever feelings of vulnerability that can arise when setting aside the security blanket of frameworks of understanding.   Letting go to let-in the work of art is also an acquired habit… and that too takes time!   “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” Anaïs Nin writes (Findlay’s book p. 52). As we gaze at works of art, we are also gazing within ourselves.

Findlay’s Seeing Slowly is an important reflection.   It is also a rewarding read for those who want to have a full and rewarding art experience.   The spontaneous paintings of plain air artists and the slow viewing of gallery visitors complement each other. In their ways, each strives to be ‘in the moment’.    And for the art viewer, that ‘moment’ is the threshold where the labyrinthine adventure begins — slow art viewing and self-exploration go hand in hand. (Robert Sauvé)



  1. Heather Wadrop

    Well this well timed as I am about to step into that world of “exhibiting” my work. I have asked myself the standard questions of why am I doing this….what do I expect to achieve? I would hope that at least one of my paintings has that pull that stops people just walking on by. I thought that I had grown a thicker skin; able to handle critiquing of my work, even negative feedback, without getting stressed….but to put my work up for others to view formally is, in my mind, a whole new concept.

    • christine godin

      Have had same thoughts and feelings and self doubt … I started out at my mother’s kitchen table – Mother was an artist (trained by nuns) and was a thorough teacher – in the 1950s – with 5 children and no money … I have been an artist for 60 years and these questions seem to be part of the psyche … just carry on Once in awhile faith returns and smiles


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Who are we

We all make art! It is part of culture. It is deeply rooted in human nature as a way of communicating with others. We all need to tell our stories because it is stories that link us all. We are all one, one creative mind! Though, all unique and equipped with unique ways of expressing ourselves. We live in constant search of that unique liberating voice. At Walk the Arts we aim to facilitate our art makers to explore new territories. Our painting classes and art history trips on three continents are meant to be rounded art experiences among small groups of like-minded adults. We offer an environment that fosters creativity. As we always say, art as religion is just a matter of faith. This blog is about living fully the experience of art, about finding our single artistic path, about the joy of art-making. We believe that making art accessible to all will lead to a betterment of our society.


Contact Us! North America and Europe

Twitter Updates



Some of you may say; “but I know perspective!” Of course! Most of you know perspective first by intuition and then through your lifetime readings here and there. But, honestly, do you really understand it? Meaning, as an observer within the landscape, can you feel, analyze, and understand every object that inhabits it? Can you determine the exact proportions of each of the objects in relation to “you”, without using a measuring tape?

We can’t wait to see you again!


Travelling to Italy to paint and eat! This is what we want! We are optimistic about our upcoming art workshop in Tuscany, Studio Italia 2021 (October 1–10).
In a nutshell; we cannot wait to meet everyone, to see you again, to have this morning coffee together in Tuscany, to do art as a group, in brief, to fully enjoy life all around a gourmet meal with excellent wines.

Art and Neurosciences


When a subject becomes familiar, the brain activity shuts down like when viewing a lovely chickadee painting…

Can we talk about the neuroscience of art? This is the question that French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux addresses in his beautiful book The Beauty in the Brain or La Beauté dans le Cerveau (Odile Jacob, 2016). Prof. Changeux describes how the human brain behaves when making or contemplating a work of art. To make a long story short, he argues that the neural bases of aesthetic pleasure are the product of the link between cognitive and emotional brain functions, in other words, the harmony between reason and emotion. Moreover, he gives some tips on how artists can maximize the impact of their works on their audience.

Evolving in art is just a matter of faith; only believe!


We refrain from teaching painting techniques easily found on the Net. We prefer taking the necessary time (36 hours) to fully involve the participant in reflecting on her or his art — including all levels, all media […]
Rest assured that having attended one of our online classes, you will be more confident in taming the landscape in your own way while on a plein-air painting workshop.

May I see the instructor’s works?


So why do we attend a painting workshop In Tuscany, Provence or South America? We attend a workshop to learn from each other, to share our passion, to live an art experience and to enjoy the power of knowledge through creation. This is what we offer at Walk the Arts.

Let Go! The Artist’s Way of Cooking

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/walkth14/public_html/wp-content/plugins/rating-widget/rating-widget.php on line 4172

Ten years ago, here in Tuscany, we decided to write a recipe book but with so many good cookbooks in the market, we needed to propose a new idea. We had to find a modus operandi close to who we are and what we do as visual artists. The answer was in front of us and painting gave it to us: art and color!

Travelling with meaning : a painting workshop in Italy


More and more travellers from the developed world are looking for meaningful travels. We are aiming for journeys that allow us to learn something new, to deepen our culture, to enhance our lives. Purpose, inspiration and self-discovery are now vital elements in our traveling choices. Probably, this is why our quality painting workshops offered since 1997, have become more and more popular.

Privacy Policy