Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists. Classic examples might be seeing a face in the full moon, or imagining that cloud shapes represent a dragon or dolphin.
Cloud-gazing sounds so good today!
I think that we are hard-wired by our survival instincts to identify subject matter in abstract shapes. Who hasn’t imagined a shadow in the woods to be a bear or some other predator? This subject came up in two of my recent workshops about abstract art. Viewers often ‘find’ subject matter that the artist did not intend. Once an image is identified, it is hard to ‘un-see’ it.
It Happens to Us All
Pareidolia is natural, but a sophisticated art-viewer knows that it is more acceptable to ask questions than to volunteer what their imagination has come up with. For example, a viewer might ask the artist “Am I meant to see a figure implied here?” If the artist says yes, great! You can discuss what you see, what it means etc. If the artist says no, an appropriate response is to keep your perception to yourself and discuss the artist’s intentions further. Viewers can follow up with another general question such as “What was your intention for the work?”
Interpreting art is a delicate balance between the artist’s intention and the viewer’s response. Both are important, and sharing our viewpoints can be mutually satisfying. In fact, artists love it when viewers are interested enough to ask about the work. Share your experience: does pareidolia inspire or frustrate you?
The internet has many good articles about understanding abstract art. The Collector’s Corner of Art Mine summarizes it this way:
The most important thing to understand about abstract art is that it does NOT have to have a meaning, narrative or even a singular explanation.
The main purpose of abstraction is not to tell a story, but to encourage involvement and imagination. This art form is mostly about providing its viewers with an intangible and emotional experience – more often than not, the experience is completely different for every individual depending on their personality and state of mind.
Therefore, it is really up to the viewer to decide whether the painting in front of them has any meaning or provokes any emotion. As we mentioned, abstract art is all about freedom.
That’s a fitting subject for Independence Day!
Click here to read the whole article from Art Mine. You’ll also find a list of Do’s & Don’ts for discussing abstraction. I’ll have another vocabulary post coming up soon. Watch this space! New workshop listings coming soon too! I’m always interested in your reaction to new work. Leave me a comment, and don’t forget to share with friends.
I have two shows coming up: Celebration of Creativity and Nature Perceived.
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
Celebration of Creativity – March 1 – 4, 2018
2018 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Celebration of Creativity. This showcase of local and regional artists is held at Southminster Presbyterian Church: 12250 SW Denney Rd., Beaverton, OR 97008. Especially noteworthy: the show features more than 80 established and emerging Northwest artists.
I’ll be there as the show opens with a First Look Gala from 7-9 pm on Thursday, March 1, 2018. $10 at the door includes hors d’oeuvres and music by pianist Matthew Thompson-Aue. I hope to see you there! All other times are free admission.
Friday, March 2, 10 am – 5 pm Exhibit and Sale – 7-9 pm Meet the Artists
Saturday, March 3, 10-5 Exhibit and sale
Sunday, March 4, 10-11 am – Worship in the Art Gallery – 11:30 – 3:00 Exhibit & Sale
Nature Perceived – February 23 – March 30, 2018
Randall David Tipton, Ruth Armitage & Don Gray
229 SW G Street, Grants Pass, OR 97526 – 541-479-3290 – www.gpmuseum.com
I am thrilled to be included with these two master artists for this show. Each of us brings our own sensibilities to our interpretation of the landscape. We are good friends, too, which helps! We all plan to be at the Artist’s Reception: Friday, March 2, 5-9 pm. I hope you can join us, and if you’re in the area, spread the word!
One thing getting these two shows together has shown me is that I have a lot of available work. While I sent 12 award-winning pieces to Grants Pass for Nature Perceived, I still have lots of work for the Celebration of Creativity. My flat file is getting full of work that is ready to frame, including a painting that was just accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon Spring show in Florence, coming up in April.
This tells me that I probably need to focus more on sales, because the work doesn’t do anyone much good when it is all alone in my studio. It needs viewers to enjoy it – and furthermore, I need to make room for more paintings! Now I have a renewed goal of getting more work listed for sale online.
If you already own one of my paintings, I’ll be offering a special birthday sale just for collectors in April. That’s one way to use your tax refund! Watch this space for details, and look around your home for empty walls or places that could use a refresh.
When I teach repeat students, I’m often asked if I’m saying all new things from previous workshops. Often I’m repeating something that I’ve said earlier, but the student did not internalize the information. It’s always surprising how we don’t hear advice until we are ready to implement it. We often don’t even take our own advice! I think this proves the value of repeating classes or workshops. As we grow in our artwork, we become more ready to absorb information or put it into practice.
“Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.”
I filmed a time-lapse of my process for “Summerfall.” I didn’t talk during the filming. My inspiration for the painting was the farming term Summerfall. It means to plant in late spring in preparation for a late fall harvest. Planting this way is unusual and farmers sometimes resort to it because a fall planting failed. As I worked, I thought about colors for summer like blues & violets and colors for fall like reds and golds. If you’re receiving this post via email, click over to the website to view the video here!
The early parts of the video show the painting with the top on the right, to better fit the video format. I tried to lay in the layers in a sort of x-shaped movement, falling from the high horizon line. You can see this in the earlier parts of the video best. As sometimes happens, I felt that mid-way through the process my values got a bit too dark. My solution in this case was to add metallic silver and opaque blue and yellows to lighten up areas of the work.
My repeated Mantra
One thing students who are listening hear me say over and over is to paint your own personal experience. I must say this multiple times in each workshop. It’s always amazing to me how much inspiration I can still find in this series about my rural upbringing and the farm.
I hope you’ll enjoy watching this peek into my process. There was so much idle time toward the end stages of the process while I agonized over what to do. Those finishing touches require so much courage and contemplation that I don’t think I could do them while worrying about a camera!
In other news, I’m preparing for upcoming workshops. My good friend, Ruth Ellen Hoag, will be here teaching at the beginning of February. I always enjoy painting with her and learning how her mind works! After that, we are expecting new lambs here on the farm. Then I’m headed south to Santa Barbara to study with Skip Lawrence and to teach a workshop of my own. It’s going to be a busy spring when you throw in all the shows I’m doing… I hope you can join me!
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Praise and success are a tricky thing for the artist. While everyone wants to be successful and praise is seductive, the nature of art is so subjective that there are many definitions of success. During the creative process, we run the risk of becoming perfectionistic if we allow thoughts of success to overpower the idea at hand. We all know that perfectionism is fear, and bold creations cannot thrive in an atmosphere of fear.
“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I have been re-reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I find it difficult to maintain a regular studio routine during the holidays. Well, let’s be honest here. I always find it hard to maintain a regular studio routine. That’s what the book is about. I’ve been trying to balance making time for artwork with preparing for the Christmas holidays. At times like this I’m thankful to have a dedicated studio space where I can retreat, even for short periods.
Another reason that praise or success can be a fickle mistress is that it breeds pride. Pride is different than self-confidence. Hubris, or pride, is the most serious of the 7 Deadly Sins. I’m not talking about feeling the humble joy of success. Hubris is more about egoism, or undeserved self-aggrandizment. I have seen many artists hamper their own creative growth because of pride. Pride demands that we ‘save face’ and avoid failure. The creative process demands that we risk failure to grow and change.
“Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.” – David Brooks, The Road to Character
Artists must always monitor the evaluation of their own work. One must be unflinchingly honest – we have to maintain a healthy amount of self-esteem to even attempt self-expression. But we must avoid hubris or false pride in order to maintain humility and openess to the creative process.
Avoiding Seduction – Keeping it in perspective
Everyone loves to hear that their work touched someone. Sales tell me that someone loved my work enough to live with it. I also receive positive feedback from social media and from juried shows. But by the same token, I know that I need to remember:
Ratindra Das has accepted “Jump” for the 9th Annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition in Fallbrook, CA. I’m honored to be in great company. Artists must be a signature member of a Watercolor Society or Group to enter this show. So, the competition is tougher to get in. Standards for achieving signature membership vary. Generally it means your work has been accepted into more than one exhibition or has passed a review board.
The show will run February 4 – April 15, 2018
Open Daily February 4 through April 15, 2018 | Mon – Sat 10 am – 4 pm | Sun Noon – 3 pm
The Janice Griffiths Gallery @ The Fallbrook Art Center
103 S. Main Ave, Fallbrook, CA 92028
This weekend I’m participating as a guest of the Local14 Art Show! Tonight is the gala 50th Anniversary Opening reception, from 6-9 pm. $10 admission gets you a great night out with catering by Elephant’s Deliand first access to the bounty of wonderful art presented. The show is open September 28 – October 1 at the Left Bank Annex in NE Portland.
There are 2 levels to this great industrial space, so don’t miss exploring all the show has to offer. You can use the bucket style elevator or the stairs to move between levels. There is so much to see, you’ll want to spend some time here! I’ve created a special box set of 4×6″ notecards for this show and Portland Open Studios. Each set contains 2 each of 4 different designs. I can’t wait for you to see them! They’ll be on the small pedestal you see in the photo above.
50 Years of History
Local 14 began 50 years ago when 14 women artists decided to host a show in a garage in Lake Oswego. ‘Local’ is an acronym for Lake Oswego Crafts and Arts League, and 14 denotes the original 14 members. The group uses this show to raise funds for arts scholarships for deserving college students. This year, they have awarded $10,000 in scholarships to 4 deserving students. The scholarship winners will have work on display during the show.
What You’ll See:
I’m excited to be one of 15 former members participating in this show to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. This location is great for all the available space. It has allowed more art from more artists than ever before. You’ll find a juried selection of jewelry, paintings, ceramics, wearables, mixed media art, photography, basketry, printmaking, sculpture and garden art, glass and woodworkingl
A new image in Oil & Wax… this one was inspired by the old oil heater that we used to have on the farm. It sat below the floor boards and the heat came up through a metal grate. I have memories of standing over it with warm rumbling oil-scented air filling the skirt of my flannel nightgown.
Years after the old beast was removed and replaced with an electric heat pump, I repeatedly found myself leaning against the doorway in an useless attempt to warm or comfort myself. Can you see the faint outline of a nightgown in the detail shot?
I love the Van Gogh quote… and I’m finding it especially poignant because I’ve just enjoyed a visit with my good friend and neighbor Judy Wise.
It was so encouraging to talk art and share works in process with her! I’ve been finishing quite a few smaller pieces for two upcoming shows, so mark your calendars! I think these shows function as a kind of hearth to warm ourselves in the early chill of autumn. The camaraderie and excitement are contagious.
1. Local 14 Art Show & Sale
September 28 – October 1, 2017 – At the Left Bank Annex, Portland, Oregon – Directions and more information here.
October 14 & 15, 21 & 22, 2017 from 10am – 5pm each day
This is a self-guided tour. Over 100 artists welcome the public during the tour dates. You can download a mobile app, or buy a tour guide at the following retailers. New this year: a ‘teaching artist’ section, listing participating artists who offer classes and workshops!
I have 2 tour guides left to sell… let me know if you want one! Or pick one up at these locations:
New Seasons, Dick Blick, Artists and Craftsman Warehouse, Portland Art Museum, Madrona Hill Cafe, Guardino Gallery, Bullseye Glass, Copy Pilot
You can also get in on some local ‘action’ by signing up for PDX-CSA. Click to read about the projects from myself and 5 other curated artists. The pre-sales generated between now and September 17th will fun the creation of a limited number of artworks specially made for this project.
It’s like Patreon and your favorite Organic Farm had a love-child. You choose the artist or artist pair that you like, and follow the progress of the work from concept through completion. If you choose a pairing, you’ll receive a discount on the artwork. I’m paired with the fantastic Kirista Trask. I think our paintings will look magical together!
The artworks made for these projects are only available through PDX-CSA. Mine will incorporate found objects with abstract paintings in Oil & Cold Wax medium. They are designed to be affordable and collectible! Click here to get in while you can! I love receiving your comments and I’m honored when you share my posts with friends. Thanks!