Lately I’ve been reading research and I recently watched a documentary on sight and reality.
I’ve posted before about this. The documentary offers a slightly different theory. Paintings sometimes mimic reality. I’ve noticed that at some point a painting can start to leap off the canvas giving an illusion that you are looking at reality. At first I thought it was detail but some very impressionistic and undetailed paintings can impart this illusion. I’ve noticed it very occasionally in my own work; usually in backgrounds. Curiously the earlier this happens in a painting the more difficultly I have with the work.
The latest research suggests that we maintain a three-dimensional visualisation of the world around us and as we experience more of this reality we update our mental visualisation. Tests indicate that communication between the Thalamus and other parts of our brain that interpret visual information is greatly unbalanced. Visual information is being received by the Thalamus and sent to areas of our brains that are responsible for interpreting it but the information being sent back is almost six times the amount being received. The result is that people subjected to sensory deprivation (either voluntarily or otherwise) see or hallucinate a reality. I think this is what is happening when a painting seems to jump off a canvas. When a painting matches our mental visualisation we have the illusion that we are actually looking at reality.
Unfortunately this doesn’t help an artist much; at least it doesn’t give me much insight on how it might be used. I don’t know what my present visualisation of reality is let alone others. So it’s a bit of a role of the dice. The illusion is probably heightened when one aspect (colour perhaps) is a good match but others like shapes are not. One part of our brain is telling us that we are looking at reality but another is in disagreement. I have been fascinated with images that look like reality but on further inspection are obviously not. I have been experimenting with trying to make one area of my painting look very real (usually the focus) and leaving other areas alone. No good results yet.
I don’t have an underlying meaning for my paintings. I paint things that interest me. When I look at a scene I’m thinking about how I would paint it and if it would be interesting. Not interesting to others, interesting to me. Painting is a very selfish pastime for me. But it’s interesting when someone likes my work. I get critique from my wife and daughters. Their critique can be brutal but it is very useful. It is rare that I don’t take their advice.
Do you start out your work with an underlying meaning that you want to communicate?
I do. It’s not that I am embarrassed, self-conscious or particularly shy. I just have very little to say about it. I like painting although sometimes I find it frustrating. I rarely like the finished product. In the rare instances that there is some part of the work that I think is good, it is time to celebrate. It’s certainly surprising. I’ve been asked why I continue to paint if I don’t like the result. I like to paint. The result doesn’t really matter so I put it in my attic and start another painting.
I like talking about techniques. No one believes me when I tell them that anyone can paint. A couple of techniques and a little desire and you’re good to go. Now this doesn’t make a great artist; I have no idea what actually makes a great artist, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t paint if you enjoy it.
I like painting on flat surfaces. I’ve been painting on canvas for years but I have had the opportunity to paint on board and I like it. Lately I’ve been using modeling paste to smooth out the canvas. I might try switching to Linen, it has a little less tooth. Opus caries painting boards that are quite large and reasonably priced so I might do more painting on board.
Subjects to write about? Here is a Website with over a hundred ideas for things to write about. I’ve been using it lately and it’s really helpful.
Dana Irving’s work is not particularly realistic although I recognise a couple of the locations. Her style is nothing like mine. She uses organic shapes (sometimes not so organic) for trees and foliage. If I were describing what I liked to someone else, I’m sure they would not think of Dana Irving. However I keep going back to look at it; I like it.
What is it that attracts me to her work? The colours are warm and often inviting. The transitions from one colour to another are smooth and pleasing. It’s actually a bit of a shock that I like her work. Would I hang it on my wall? I think I would. Her figurative work have nice pointed toes (my daughter is a dancer). I suspect that she paints what she likes in the way she likes. In that I like to think that we have something in common. I don’t really know what attracts me to her work and maybe that is what art is all about.
Salmon spawn in all the rivers and streams on the Pacific Northwest. At least they used to. They return to the same streams year after year. There are a multitude of theories about how they do this but we don’t really know. Even around Vancouver there are many streams where Salmon spawn and in some of them the runs are gone. Conservationists are doing their best to re-introduce Salmon into these streams. I’ve heard very pessimistic and optimistic reviews about this experiment. We shall see in years to come if they are successful.
This particular image is not of the Pacific Northwest as some of the flora is wrong. But I like it anyway.