Quantum Mechanics Versus Reality

I’ve always enjoyed math and science and inspiration comes from many sources. I can’t say with certainty that math or science has added anything to my painting but it does allow me to cogitate on interesting things during the painting process. When my daughters were young I didn’t paint. Oils were too smelly and acrylics too transparent and quick drying. I’ve since found ways around those problems.

Years ago my daughters and I were out and about. I don’t remember exactly why but I suspect my wife was getting a well-earned rest from them. I decided to take them to lunch. There weren’t many people in our section of the restaurant and shortly, after we received our lunch. a waitress was cleaning a table near us. I sensed a teaching moment. The floor was tile and I commented that if the waitress dropped the ketchup bottle (it was a glass bottle) there would be a big mess. Both of my daughters agreed. I mentioned casually that there might be a possibility that the mess could happen even if she didn’t drop the bottle and both my daughters were a little incredulous so I started explaining, but I picked up my fork and ate one of my fries first just to highlight the point.

There is a famous and universally taught experiment in physics involving shining a light through two vertical slits. The result is an interference pattern of many vertical bars projecting on a screen placed at a suitable distance behind the slits. Search ‘double slit experiment’ on Google and you will get a ton of descriptions and explanations. If water is used instead of light the water waves are directed at a divider with two openings in it; representing the two slits. The waves refract or reflect through the two openings creating two curved wave fronts on the other side. The result is a set of standing waves that mimic the bars of light in the Light experiment. The way the water mimics light makes us think that light is also a wave. This is an important point so I carefully and slowly ate one of my fries to again highlight it.

Light can be measured very accurately down to a point where it just doesn’t get any smaller. The impression is that light comes in discrete packets that we call quanta. Hence Quantum Mechanics. The really interesting thing is that we can send a single photon/quantum through one of the slits and still get the interacting pattern of vertical strips. So what is the single Photon reacting with? One theory is that the photon is reacting with itself. In one universe the photon goes through one slit and in another it goes through the other slit. At the moment when the photon goes through the slits the universes/dimensions/timelines haven’t split or collapsed yet so the photon reacts with itself going through the other slit and thus forms the interference pattern that we know and love.

This is usually referred to as the Multiverse theory. So in one universe the waitress drops the ketchup on the floor and in another she doesn’t, so the mess exists on the floor whether the ketchup bottle ends up on the floor or not. This is a bit of a stretch because the waitress is not a quantum object and this is not how the Quantum Mechanics theory was thought of.

My youngest daughter looked at me and said “Dad I have a question”. How wonderful I’m getting a question from the youngest one. At this point she has no idea about math so what will the question be? I waited with bated breath!


Her question; “Dad how can you eat fries with a fork?”



Yellowstone Park is wonderful. I was quite young when my family went and the geysers and hot pools are fabulous. I met Robert Wood there. He was painting at the time (early 1960’s) although I don’t remember what he was painting but apparently I was very interested. That is the moment that I was always told that I started to want to paint. I really don’t remember Robert Wood but I still have the American Silver dollar that he gave me. I presume to get rid of me, I must have been very annoying. When my mother told the story she gave me the impression that she was somewhat embarrassed that I got money from the artist, although she never complained when I went to painting class. I still have the silver dollar and have been repeatedly told to take good care of it. I wonder if he had a pocket full of silver dollars to get rid of annoying children like me.


I’ve had a few people ask me about detail. Some are looking for more in my work and some comment on how much there is in it. They are all surprised when I tell them that I’m trying to put in less.

Detail is a two edged sword. More detail doesn’t necessarily mean a better reality illusion although it can certainly add to it. Putting in more detail is time consuming and may not make the painting look more real. It’s also not much fun. The reality illusion, as I call it, can present with just a few brush strokes but it can also hide until the very last moment, or disappointingly, never appear at all. When I did Pebble Beach the reality illusion didn’t appear until after I completed the painting. I was considering repurposing the canvas (great euphemism). As I was putting it on my website and debating the euphemism the boat jumped out at me as did the mountain side foliage. That is when I decided that it probably wasn’t a failure.

I can add detail to any painting at any time. I constantly put detail into my work until it’s screaming not to add any more. Sometimes it doesn’t scream loud enough. If I see a place that needs more work I add more. I do this until it has the reality illusion or until I get really tired of it. The painting is then finished.

Technological Change is Accelerating

When I first started painting there was very little choice of media. Watercolours were common along with pen and ink but if you wanted to paint seriously then the choice was oils. So when I started taking classes Oils were the only medium being used professionally.

In the 1960’s acrylics were all the rage, and obvious because many artists used paint squeezed directly from the tube but there was no one that I was aware of that used acrylics seriously. I remember seeing a couple of paintings on one of my teacher’s walls that were obviously acrylics but she taught classes using oils.

Today most or at least many artists use oils but more and more are using acrylics. I believe that acrylics are better than oils and eventually most artists will be using them. Recently wood panels have become popular again. I like them and I notice that there are more of them in the art supply store I frequent. I’m anticipating plastic and foam to replace wood in these panels.

Certainly artists are slow to adopt new technology but they are also quick to use something new that works and perhaps saves them money. So technology is certainly changing quickly but the pace of change is accelerating. This can’t go on forever but at the moment I see more changes quicker at my local art store. Twenty years ago Web sites were a new thing, people are starting to look at me funny if I say Facebook and Fax is now a thing of the past (almost). I think art painting will be around a little longer. If I see something new I try it because it might be better.

Concerned That Your Images Will Be Stolen?

I have been complaining that some of the images (photos) I have used from the Web do not have Metadata attached. As a result I have been diligently filling out metadata information on my own work. I’ve also noticed that images I’ve uploaded to WordPress have been converted to WEBP format. That’s a lossless compression format that I suspect is related to JPEG. Photoshop can’t open WEBP images (there are likely Add-ons and work-arounds) so it’s nice to know that images uploaded to my Blog are somewhat protected; I’m assuming that Metadata is retained with WEBP images.

I’ve never been terribly concerned about images of my paintings on the Web. I guess if someone were using one of my painting images, plastering it on a T-Shirt and making a ton of money on it, I would need to do something about it. If they were actually making enough money to be referred to as a ‘Ton-of’ my mercenary side would want a cut. If it were one of my photographs on the net I would like someone using it for a painting to give me credit. If it were being used to do a painting I would be pleased but I would still like some credit. Difficult to ask for credit if I haven’t supplied any information.

Many modern digital cameras will automatically include information in metadata including GPS information. I think that the best way to ensure that I get recognition is to make sure my name is associated with the image; be it a photograph or image of a painting. If the image is used elsewhere and my name is in the metadata, then it’s just advertising for me. If it’s used in a publication or in some commercial endeavour then I would at least like credit and maybe payment depending on where and how it’s used.

I’m not really concerned about images of my work being stolen. If my house were burgled and my paintings stolen (good luck some of them are reasonably large) I’m still not concerned because I have pictures of them all and they are on the Web so they couldn’t be sold. No one could get much for them in any case.

I believe that my paintings are not really worth much; not that I would feel guilty about charging an arm and a leg for them if they were sold. The value to me is in painting another.

Experimenting with GIF’s.

I’ve had a few questions about how I paint. Since I have photos of the progress of all my recent paintings I thought the best way would be to show them in an animation, a GIF. I put the first one on my site so take a look and see how it works for you.

I’ve been taking progress photos ever since my daughter had a painting destroyed in the mail. She sells a lot more than I do or ever did so this isn’t a criticism of the mail service but that’s where it happened. She had photos of her progress and just recreated the work. I don’t think I could have done that and certainly not without photos of the process.

I’m not completely happy with this GIF. It comes off a little choppy and it’s a bit large. I’ll work on the transitions.



I have a brush that I like.

I like it so much that I have two of them. They are very small brushes. I was painting a shadow line and became annoyed that my favourite brush couldn’t paint the line as fine as I wanted; so I stopped, made tea, and took a moment. When I stepped back into the studio what I was painting jumped out at me. The line that I was so frustrated with was perfect.

Does this happen to anyone else? I think it happens because my perception of the line changes due to colours and how close I might be to the painting. My perception of the painting also changes depending on how long I’ve been looking at it and how much I’ve been concentrating on it.

I will always remember one of my teachers telling me to step back and look at what I just painted. At the time I thought she was a little crazy because I found it so annoying. I stepped back and looked then made some changes. I got used to doing this and still do the same thing but it’s only recently that I’ve come to really understand what she was talking about. My daughter tells me to turn the painting upside down (I often rotate it in 90 degree increments). This works as well or better than stepping back. I have a small mirror on the back wall of my studio and when I step back I look at the painting in the mirror. Through all of these machinations I eventually see the thing that the painting needs.

I think this works by breaking the connection to a 3D construct we create about the world around us. The resulting disconnect makes us rebuild the 3D mental construct from scratch and doing so brings our attention to any flaws that may be present. There are always flaws with what I’m doing.

Getting back to the brush, it’s curious to me that one brush seems so perfect and another, that I believe is just as good, doesn’t do the job. I don’t have a good answer for this and the only way I’ve found to get around it is to try every brush I can get my hands on and buy the one that feels best. I rub the brush on my finger to get a sense of how it will feel to paint with it.

Final Picture

Getting a fairly accurate picture for the Web can be difficult. This portrait is particularly troublesome. Notice first the pin cushion distortion making Phil’s head look too big and his hands too small. This is the most correctible problem. When I do a final image for the Web I take at least 4 pictures at a higher telephoto setting and join them together in Photoshop then match the size with the painting dimensions. With a 35 mm camera (I know those no longer exist; at least it’s difficult to buy new ones) an 80 mm lens is approximately distortion free. It isn’t really “distortion free”; it just matches approximately what our eyes see and our brain interprets.

The colour isn’t right either; it’s much too yellow. I don’t know if this is just the light or a camera setting. The light I’m using is a full spectrum fluorescent and that could easily have a significant yellow cast. The painting looks darker than the camera image and that could be the camera (cameras automatically set luminosity based on specific locations of an image or an average) I’ve darkened this image a good deal and retained the full tonal range and the result matches my monitor with the painting. MY MONITOR! But it might not match with anyone else’s monitor.

Most paintings don’t require accurate colour and tonal matching. However if you are doing something on commission it might. When we look at an image we interpret the colours and tonal range and compare it with what we think it should be. It might look very different under different lighting conditions. I have no control of the different conditions under which someone might view my painting. At best if I were actually doing something on commission, I could make it look right in my studio and make sure the client picks it up from there.

Row Boat On A Fiord In Northern Europe

OK so I’m a little tired of looking at the portrait I have on my easel so the featured image here is of another painting. I’ve also been reading about the latest SEO techniques (Search Engine Optimisation) so the format is a little different. I’ve been building Websites for some years and I’m familiar with SEO but things change and I definitely need a little refresher.

I sometimes find images to paint on the Internet. I try not to use images that have been worked on. I often modify them extensively in the painting. In this case I think the painting is pretty close to the original image, close enough that I would love to give a nod to the photographer but sadly there is no metadata in the image and I didn’t make note of what Website I pulled it from. Even if I had there might not be any information as to the photographer.

SEO is not for everyone. I’m a bit of a geek so I find it interesting. Since I know how to build Websites I’m a little averse to paying anyone to do it for me and I find it interesting. There is my geeky side again. I view it as a bit of a hobby.

I will continue to look for images on the Internet but for Photographers out there please remember that I can’t attach any information about you unless it’s in the metadata. Hopefully a search engine will scan this page and pick up that it’s about an acrylic painting. This is why I’m writing that it’s an old looking rowboat sitting in the water and reflecting a sunset. I could write hundreds of words describing the painting but I just don’t see how it is worth it. It’s certainly worth taking a few minutes to roughly describe the image so that it might be easier to search.

Colour Perception

Should I spend a fortune on very accurate computer monitors? Should I buy very expensive paints?

We can see millions of colours. Graphic artists will be familiar with this but how is this number arrived at. With a monitor it’s easy, colours are generated with a very specific method, RGB (red green and blue pixels), that can produce millions of possible colours. Each pixel can be set to one of 256 possible values. So 256 x 256 x 256 is 16,777,216 possible values. So why is it that I sometimes have difficulty matching a colour to something I am seeing? Depending on the colour method being used, and how it’s defined, there may be millions or even billions of possible colours that can be generated. Our retinas are probably not capable of differentiating billions of colours but it might be necessary to produce more than millions of colours in order to replicate certain areas that our retinas can perceive very accurately. Greens for example.

Our retinas don’t differentiate colours in a linear fashion; in some areas of the spectrum our retinas may be very sensitive and in others not so much. So in some areas of the spectrum we can differentiate colours that would divide the spectrum into multiple millions of colours and in other areas thousands of colours might be close enough. For example we are very good at seeing greens. This is why fluorescent lights are designed to fluoresce more in the green parts of the spectrum (this might be a lucky coincidence). This allows a lower wattage bulb to appear brighter. Since we evolved in a forest it’s understandable that we can differentiate greens better. From an evolutionary perspective we might have evolved to better see the Lion in the grass.

Although interesting this doesn’t really help the artist (me). I try to fiddle with colour and use various pigments that I think are closest to the colour I want to achieve. I know that a human’s colour vision isn’t particularly accurate and I have a significant amount of trouble trying to match some colours accurately or acceptably. This might seem very disheartening to many who are trying to reproduce specific colours but I think it has a great deal to do with what I call the reality illusion so I embrace it. So long as the painting looks good I try not to be too concerned about why. I don’t recommend spending a fortune on a colour monitor. If you really like the colour of a paint then buy it and try it out.