Sunday, May 15, 2016

Seeing, Despite Our Brains

Our brains are both fascinating and frustrating. It's a wonder we are able to function at all, as neuroscientists will tell you, but we do. (Though, I can't help mentioning, this goes a long way to explaining the Donald Trump phenomenon.)

How we see and process what we see is just one area that needs explaining. From there, turning what we see into art takes it to another level.

I recently saw these paintings, created by kindergartners. Their teacher had, helpfully, included the reference photo each child used. Bear in mind, these were the best three that were posted from the class:

Like all of us, these kids' brains want to take a shortcut. Instead of drawing what we literally see on the page (dark vs. light areas, edges, colors), we draw what we think a tiger looks like, or what a fox looks like. What a house looks like, in the familiar example from childhood.

These kids have each gotten at least part of the way along the path artists learn to follow, away from drawing the icon of their subject toward actually drawing the image they see. I especially like how the tiger artist captured the slouchiness of the animal and the fox artist's attempt to capture the varying colors of the fur with a limited set of markers and colored pencils. Overall, though, I think the turtle rendering is the most successful. The turtle has fins rather than some kind of iconic land turtle leg. The vertical layers of the environment are all represented. The artist even got that odd brown reflection just above the turtle's back!

But the water is still blue, despite the clear photographic evidence to the contrary.

The icon in our heads is strong, stronger than the evidence before our eyes. It takes years to overcome it and see.

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