At first I didn't get it. But now I do.
Sometimes though I forget. In lots of ways, it's too easy to just see "trees", whether in life or in retouching.
Allow me to provide a relevant example. When I first started retouching, I was so keen on smoothing out skin imperfections, that my finished product would look like this:
I think the word, "whoops..." pretty much sums up the retouch. Yeah, I got really good with the healing brush and dodging and burning imperfections. But at what point did I not notice that Sophie's face went from being human to being plastic? The problem is... umm, I didn't notice at all.
Understanding the general direction, the overall construct of the face, the concept/feeling of the frame are all "forests". Dodging and burning, clone stamping, healing brush, gradient maps... these are all "trees". Stare at a tree too long and you forget that you're in a forest. Interestingly, there are lots of relevant life lessons from this saying but I'm not here to lecture about life :)
Just a friendly reminder for myself to never forget that these little trees are a part of a larger thing called the forest.
In my defense, you do have to evaluate "trees" for a long time before you can mentally understand the constructs of the entire forest. Yes I went too far on the edit above, but it took going "too far" to realize where "just right" was. Going "too far" also provided me a valuable opportunity to perfect the use of the tools mentioned above.
That being said, sometimes I forget that the human face consists of pores and shadows and other imperfections... and sometimes I go on a rampage eliminating everything at 300% magnification and forget that these supposed "flaws" make up the believability and realness of the human face.