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View Diary: Fort Butovice (photo diary)- Street Prophets Open Thread (21 comments)

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  •  Totally amazed (2+ / 0-)

    That you remember book illustrations from when you were a kid. I loved books and reading, in fact I taught myself to read the summer between Kindergarten and first grade, and I spent a lot of time with books. But I couldn't begin to tell you about any illustrations from those children's books.

    When it comes to sensing the world, you must be very visually dominant. One thing I've noticed about artists is they seem to really see the world differently. In the few art classes I took, it was such a hard thing for me to grasp how to see shapes and duplicate them with paper and pencil, or paint.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

    by Ooooh on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 02:55:19 PM PST

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    •  Memory and Learning to Draw: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ooooh, RiveroftheWest

      I guess that shows how complex and varied our brains can be.

      I'm more likely to remember the cover of a book than its contents. I remember that one of the earliest 'fantasy' books I read was called "Magic to Burn", I couldn't tell you much of anything about the story. I won't cheat and read the synopsis or reviews from that link. I might even be confusing it with another book but I recall the hardcover edition that my brother had featured a little sprite/brownie/gnome/elf/leprechaun of a man-- in profile I think, maybe seated under a leaf, smoking a pipe with the title of the book coming out of the smoke. Seems to me he was called a "boggart"...

      Now you've got me wondering whether I was always like this or if this visual dominance was something I worked at to develop. To a certain extent I know it was developed because the human brain garbles so much of its visual input. There's a lot to unlearn. Almost all children will draw trees on a hill or chimneys coming out of a slanting roof like they were pins stuck in a pincushion.

      Ask most people to draw a face and they'll almost entirely ignore the forehead and make the eyes much too big. We focus on what's important to us and ignore the rest. There's a whole generation of art teachers over here that must have run into the same insane professor in college. They draw the human head as if the eyes were found a third of the way down. Some of my fellow art teachers at the university here were teaching their students this bizarre rule of thirds. I tutored a girl trying to get into an art school and her previous art teacher had taught her the rule of thirds. She had stopped drawing people because she could never get their faces to look right-- gee, I wonder why.

      Unless you're badly deformed your eyes are nearer to the half way point of your head. Children's eyes are found even lower because the bones of their face aren't fully grown.

      I took a sheet of tracing paper and a handy magazine and drew little ovals over the heads in the photos, ignoring the hair, and every time-- zoop! right through the middle were the eyes.

      I warned her then that the 'rule of thirds' will probably not be the last bit of utter nonsense she'll learn in school-- and that to be a good artist we have to be aware of how our brains warp the information we get from our eyes. By careful observation we can unlearn the nonsense.

      Our brains know that sight is the least trusted of our senses even if we don't. I used to ask my students to spin around until they were dizzy and then tell me what the world looks like as they try to stand still. It's their eyes relaying the information that everything is still while their inner ears are still swirling and sloshing around; telling our brains that we're still spinning-- so our brains spin the image we get from our eyes.

      Our brains are particularly bad at judging colors and tones. Learning to correctly identify color is one of the most difficult things a painter struggles with. Our brain carries so many prejudices, forces so many contrasts on a world that just won't look right if we try to paint it that way. No, that's the same tone of gray-- it's just that over there it's next to a dark green and over here it's surrounded by light blue... You can create some really eye-opening exercises for yourself by comparing samples of color taken from different parts of a photograph.

      It takes a lot of practice.

      This problem with our brains distorting reality is something that should be better emphasized in art education.

      It's not easy to learn to draw what's really there and ignore what your brain is telling you must be there.

      You may have experienced some of this difficulty in your art classes. We grow up drawing objects as if they were pictograms, symbols representing the object-- a deciduous tree becomes a lime-green lollypop, coniferous trees are dark green triangles on brown blocks or perhaps manage to be a steep pyramid of green bananas. Then, when we're finally sitting in front of a real bottle and asked to draw it realistically, we have to ignore our preconceived image of "bottle" to draw it well.

      A bottle is a typical object for a teacher to stick into a still life to easily detect if their students are seeing what is really in front of them. Often the bottle will be placed so that it's at a height where the top is above the eyes of the students-- where they couldn't possibly see the bottle from the top and see the lip sitting there like an inner tube in a pool.

      There's a lot to learn and unlearn but if you enjoy the process and remain motivated through the inevitable failures I think anyone can learn to draw. And I write that as if it was a final goal. Learning to draw is an endless journey. There's always more to learn.

      •  The way you describe learning to see (2+ / 0-)

        What is really there, instead of what the brain is telling you is so interesting. It parallels what one does in Buddhist practice, learning to see what is really there instead of relying on the what our ego driven minds are telling us.

        It's mind boggling to consider these similarities, and fertile ground for pondering this week.

        Another thing I was considering when I was thinking about the way I've noticed artists pulling apart a visual to see things in shapes in ways that are foreign to my way of seeing is that maybe it is a kind of ability the same way some people can eat something and know how to duplicate it by tasting the elements within it. It is something that has always been easy for me, but I know some people just are unable to do that.

        Once a friend was telling me about a salad she ate that she knew I would really like, she told me about the ingredients in the salad. I asked her about the dressing, if the overall flavor was sweet and she looked at me like I was crazy and said she didn't know. I know everyone's senses are tuned uniquely, but I suspect she "eats with her eyes" and not her taste buds.

        In hypnotherapy training we were instructed to test for a client's learning/cognition style, visual, auditory or kinesthetic, in order to build imagery that would be easy for the client to work with. When working with groups I always made a point to include all three types of imagery. And still there were always people who had trouble relaxing and letting go, in order to get them to relax you had to overload and confuse their brains.

        Perception, cognition and human behavior are endlessly interesting. Now I have enough to ponder for days about perception and creating visual art, at least if I'm stuck inside due to the weather I've got good stuff to think about. ;-)

        There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

        by Ooooh on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 06:56:25 AM PST

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        •  I'm now thinking that I should (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ooooh, RiveroftheWest

          learn more about Buddhism. Not that my brand of disdainful skeptical paranoia is a good fit for any organized spiritual practice but I see aspects of many religions that I consider to be insightful and valuable.

          What little contact I've had with Zen Buddhism and koans has been great fun.

          I think I'd enjoy a bit of mind boggling myself this next week. Been mostly plunking away at a friend's website design and one of my paintings. Hoping to be able to finish them both soon and move on to new projects.

          I have an awful time trying to discover what ingredients were used in something. Especially herbs and spices-- but I think my sense for identifying certain favorite herbs is improving. Over time I've learned a bit about what to add if I want to achieve a certain flavor. It took me entirely too long to identify the taste of rosemary in many of my favorite Italian dishes. Generally it's impossible for me to untangle a complicated flavor. And, I'd have to admit that some very simple flavors baffle me as well. Imagine my surprise when learning that just by adding a bit of anise to my stir fry I can achieve the taste of the Hoisin sauce that I'd so enjoyed in so many of the cheap take-away dishes I'd sampled over the years. No, I'm not a culinary genius.

          I suppose the story about your friend could be a reminder of mindfulness. The old Chinese saying that "first you eat with your eyes" is quite true in my experience; you too know the value of presentation. Floral and culinary displays eh? But so many of us forget to really taste the food after we've shoveled it into our mouths.

          There's some potato soup waiting for me in the kitchen. Yes, by request I made some more Czech potato soup yesterday. This time I used up a few frozen Brussels sprouts-- all out of the savory cabbage. I think I'll practice trying to identify the individual tastes. Perhaps it'll be easier if I already know what's in it.

          •  Zen is a complete mystery to me (2+ / 0-)

            That's probably because of the way I came to Buddhism. I studied Vedanta for a long time and had wonderful teachers. But I stumbled on Pema Chodron's books about Buddhist Lojong. They were so helpful, it was like finally reaching an oasis spring after crawling, parched, across a desert.

            However it is only recently that these teachings became commonly available, Lojong was reserved for special students in the past. When I learned that I was indignant, but then when I realized how resistant people generally are to the wisdom in those teachings I understood why they were not taught to everyone. So in my case it was Vedanta that prepared me for the Lojong, and that is not normal.

            Now it's time for me to go get busy in the kitchen, time to bake cookies! :-))

            There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

            by Ooooh on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 11:36:43 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent explanation, Marko. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marko the Werelynx, Ooooh
        It's not easy to learn to draw what's really there and ignore what your brain is telling you must be there.
        I've had some good teachers who repeatedly said Draw what you see, not what you THINK you see.

        And it's so true. So hard to remember and follow consistently too, when you're actually faced with doing it.

        And I find it very hard to combine an actual scene with elements or features that I remember, or imagine. Getting the imported details to jibe with the real ones... now, that's hard!

        •  Thanks, and yes-- you're right. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Ooooh

          Combining elements taken from different sources is very difficult. It's simple to sit down and reproduce a photograph (that's just proportion and color sense (--cough!--)) but to use photo reference of different objects perhaps in combination with something you've sketched to make a coherent image requires a lot of technical skill and the ability to imagine all sides of the objects you're rendering. Knowing too when your elements require their perspective to be shifted, recognizing and correcting lens distortions-- it gets rather complicated if you take the the time to try to do it right.

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