Friday, October 23, 2015

Brains and eyeballs

No, I'm not referring to some B movie sci fi starring John Agar. I mean the fight between what we KNOW and what we can be an epic struggle while painting. There's a tendency to paint outlines that fade into shadow because we know the edge is there - even if we don't see it. Yes, you're right...if you look at that edge you will see it. But that's because your looking at it...Confused yet?
 Wherever the eye "slithers" to, that area snaps into full focus. Whatever the lighting conditions, your eye adjusts. The brain finds these edges and says "Aha! Hiding is futile! Prepare to be rendered!
The result is a rigid, space-less picture whose inaccurate illumination is bland and evenly lit like a mad scientist's laboratory. Or the inside of a convenience store. Life is not evenly lit. Night follows day. Your chances improve if you propose to a girl in ambiance lighting. Even God hangs out in thick darkness (Deuteromony 5:22).
 What I'm trying to say is "don't find your lost edges". It's natural to look at whatever you're trying to paint...but remember it comes into focus when you do. If it's not the focal point of your picture then you have to see it as it appears when you DO look at your focal point. Sometimes that means part of it melts into shadow. Many people are reluctant to paint one object into another or its background. They miss how multiple objects (or parts of objects and their surroundings) can become a single composite shape. Their brain overlord tells them "you know these are discrete things. You must define them". It controls their seeing so it's not their own.

We must rebel and overthrow this tyrannical reign...

...boy, I need to rent some different movies! Let's look at some examples instead. Even those these teapots are photos, we can "find" the edges in shadow on the color example. The B&W image makes the lost edge more obvious.

 When you're walking around, look for these lost edges. This may mean you have to turn off the general illumination found in most homes and use the ambient light from your windows, 19th century style (and we wonder why that era produced so many good painters).


  1. This was a hoot to read. I've found that Slurpee's and ice cream are great at rendering brain overlords powerless.
    I've tried to do a still life using only the ambient lighting but found it hard because there was no light on my palette & I couldn't see what I was mixing. Any suggestions for that?

  2. Short of some separate light source on the palette you pretty much have to give your eyes time to adjust. That's another 19th century thing: Have you noticed how tiny the font is on books from that period? Their eye muscles were more "buff" than ours because we light everything. Slurpees came out around 1965. Most of the aliens hit around 1958-59. They probably knew about using ice cream but screen heroes don't look particularly dashing dishing out scoops. Few substites for a good home made death ray.

    1. Perhaps I'll start running on the treadmill in the dark from now on.

  3. Enjoyed the lesson in this. As you know I am working some in black and white for a couple of months. Check out this artist who has an exhibit up in Davenport this month.
    (You may already know her work, and maybe the artist herself already, but just in case.)

  4. Even the comments on this one are entertaining.