How did an artistic talent surface in our ancestors? It must have resulted from some reason. I don’t see the ability to draw as having any survival benefit, unless it helps communication. Drawings on cave walls could have helped communicate details of a hunt and improve future hunts. That’s a benefit but I think it started earlier than that.
Why does a painting start to look real? In previous posts I’ve speculated about this as a convergence of the painting with our internal visualisation of what our present reality looks like. This isn’t my idea, it comes from researchers working on human visual capability. So our ancestors searched the surrounding bush for something that looked like a lion or other predator. Sometimes they saw it and sometimes they didn’t. Visual acuity doesn’t seem to matter much here because it’s an interpretation of shadows and shapes. If they saw danger they could run and maybe have a better chance of survival and passing on their creative genes. This talent is also useful in the hunt.
When I was hunting I constantly scanned the surrounding bush. Sometimes something caught my interest. If I sat down and waited sometimes whatever it was materialised into a Dear, Grouse or Moose. I have a similar feeling about parts of a painting. Sometimes it just doesn’t look right so I keep adding paint until it does.
Abstract works wouldn’t seem to fall into the same category because there is usually little or no intention of the work looking like reality. I’ve talked to a few abstract artists and they have all talked about an area on the painting not looking right. If there is no intention of it representing reality then what could be ‘not right’ about it? Nevertheless I believe that the same mechanism is in play. Now maybe their internal vision is skewed or perhaps their interpreter is bent but I think it’s the same general process. Perhaps in their own mind, either conscious or subconscious, the abstract image is based on their vision of reality. I think this because listening to an abstract artist describe their creative process sounds exactly like the process that I go through. I can’t be sure because I haven’t heard of anyone determining a way to measure it, but it sounds similar.
So, if this idea has any validity, some-when an artistic ancestor managed to spot a hungry lion and outrun it. Then his or her offspring started painting cave walls. This morphed into hunters managing to kill more game and feed their children. Then more cave painting. Eventually this culminated in an ‘artist’ selling paintings. Now considering the ‘starving artist’ concept I’m rethinking the whole thing.