The Mysteries of Perception

Doris’ Horse

Doris’ Horse, Pastel on paper, 22 x18

Why is it that if we look at something too closely we lose sight of it altogether? We can’t see the growing clutter and dust in our own homes but see it instantly when we visit someone else’s, and those lines around our eyes and inches around our waistlines accumulate invisibly to us, but let us run into someone we haven’t seen in awhile and they’ll spot them from the first moment (and if they like us they’ll pretend they didn’t). It’s a perceptual thing. You get used to what you see every day.
Which is why it’s so smart to put a painting away out of sight for a couple of months and then take a new, fresher look. It’s old advice. I just pulled out a piece I thought was finished (and thought it was not half bad, by the way) and had set aside in a dark drawer for several months. In the heartless light of day and with a number of new paintings under my belt, perception had progressed and I could see how awful that piece was and best of all, I could see what to do about it. And that is the artist’s state of grace. We move on and grow and develop our skills, and as we do, our inner eye develops. Perception starts out small and weak but when it’s strong enough, it finally leads the way. When we are ready to see, perception will show us just where we have to go.

Maybe this is painting is now finished, or maybe in the morning I’ll see something I missed. Maybe it’ll go back in the drawer. Right now my perception says it’s not half bad. But what’s it going to look like two months from now?

postscript- I can already see I have much to correct tomorrow, and when I do I’ll post the update. 

Doris’ Horse, earlier version

Doris’ Horse, earlier version

3 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Perception

  1. bioephemera says:

    Very true! Recently a friend and I were debating whether it was ever possible to be objective about one’s own work. I find that if I leave something for a year or two without looking at it, I’m far enough away from the person I was when I created it that I can be fairly objective. Unfortunately I don’t have the patience to wait a year to finish a painting; I’d never feel like picking it up again. So I short-cut by using the mirror to flip it horizontal, or take a digital photo and render it in grayscale. 🙂

  2. TR says:

    Gosh, I like that orange horse in the first version because it has such a dreamlike quality. Sort of like Marc+Gauguin. Yummy stuff on this gorgeous blog. Keep up the great sharing! And happy painting!

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