Cognitive Bias and the Reality Illusion

I’ve posted about the ‘Reality Illusion’ before but I might need to define it again because it’s not a main stream thing that I’m aware of. To me the ‘Reality Illusion’ is simply when a painting starts to look real. It’s always been curious to me when a painting I’m working on starts to appear real. There is a definite difference between the painting and a photo. The photo doesn’t look real to me, it’s obviously a photo but it’s a very accurate depiction of reality. A painting is just a painting but sometimes it starts to look real.

So I’ve suggested that the reality illusion may be connected to our evolved survival instinct of looking for a lion in the grass. Our evolved method of looking for lions is a heuristic approach that might save my life today but scare the hell out of me tomorrow depending on whether there is a lion or not. Actually it would likely scare the hell out of me either way. A quick adrenalin rush and small injuries that might result from rapidly climbing a tree isn’t necessarily bad; at least not compared to being eaten by a lion.

Because of the Lion we have an innate/evolved need to know what is around us. We do our best to interpret and make sense of everything we see. So when we look at a painting our brains try very hard to make sense of it. I’m trying to understand why a painting sometimes looks real. Maybe I should be trying to understand how it could actually look like a painting. Perhaps we are predisposed to see the painting as reality. So why am I so surprised when a painting I’m working on suddenly snaps into a simulacrum of reality?

The more I read about ‘Cognitive Bias’ (a lot of very long words) the more I think it might have something to do with the ‘Reality Illusion’.

I believe our expectation has an enormous amount to do with what we think we see. In the case of the light house the colour inversion and the dynamics of our vision may have something to do with this illusion but I suspect it has a lot to do with our expectation of what the scene should look like. With a painting I don’t expect it to look real so it’s a bit of a shock when it starts to match my internal visualisation of what reality should look like. When I look at the painting it snaps from being obviously a painting to looking real. It’s a little like looking at an optical illusion that contains two pictures. I see one first and usually have to work to see the other but once I do I will always see it and I can usually snap the picture from one to the other.

How Do I Explain My Art

The simple answer is that I don’t. I’ve often thought that if I have to explain it, it’s not very good art. In my less charitable moments it comes out more like ‘if I have to explain it then you don’t have much of an artist’s eye’. The reality is, there isn’t much to explain. Something about the subject attracted me. This might be as simple as the subject itself or perhaps the interplay of shadow. It could be something counter-intuitive about the meaning of life and its effect on the subject. But to be honest that never happens; it’s the subject and maybe the interplay of shadow.

The present painting is a Still Life with a silver coffee server. I like reflections. They suggest the surroundings but the reflection is rarely perfect and never with as much contrast. Getting it to look like a reflection is the hard part because it’s rarely ever a true mirror and the shape of the reflector is always fun. I’m often surprised with how many reflections I see and in what surfaces. Often it’s just a colour reflection.