Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Learning To See: Article review by Sandra Galda

          Lindesay Harness’s Journal article is immensely interesting to me for its description of the challenges presented to an artist due to the biological structure of the eye.  Her article helped me to understand more fully what I was up against when trying to "see" in order to produce the best kind of art (in my opinion) which is the Boston Style of painting. My study in Ingbretson Studios has impressed upon me that learning to make beautiful art is, in a large part, learning to see.  In her article Harkness writes, "The fundamental design of the human visual system causes great confusion to the artist attempting to render accurately from nature (Harkness, Lindesay, "Values: When Seeing Isn't Necessarily Believing," Classical Realism Journal 2.1 (1995) 10-17).   Along with some great visuals, she explains that when an image falls on the back of the eye, the retina, nerve receptors wired to the brain pick up the image as it falls on a mosaic of rod and cone structures.  The mosaic becomes increasingly more crude in detailed information as it moves from the center back of the eye where both rods and cones are located, (the foveal receptors) to the surrounding areas where only rods are found (peripheral receptors). 

          In Tobii Technology's Blog, an article about the function of the eye explains:   "The retina is a light sensitive structure inside of the eye responsible for transforming light into signals, which are later converted into an image by the visual cortex in the brain. The fovea is a section of the retina that contains a high density of both kinds of light receptor cells found in the eye, i.e. Cone and Rod cells. Rod cells, which are mostly located in the outer retina, have low spatial resolution, support vision in low light conditions, do not discriminate colors, are sensitive to object movement and are responsible for the peripheral vision. Cone cells, which are densely packed within the central visual field, function best in bright light, process acute images and discriminate colors. ("An Introduction to Eye Tracking: Part 1-How does the eye work?" 2010, Tobii Technology's Blog 2.12.2010, <http://tobii.posterous.com/an-introduction-to-eye-tracking-part-1-how-do>.).
          I have learned that it is important for an artist interested in more accurately depicting nature to be aware of the strategies needed to work around the natural functioning of the eyeball. When giving in to the natural tendency to "look in" directly using his most sensitive nerve-wired foveal receptors, the abundance of information confounds the observance of the unity of values and colors.  Therefore viewing the subject with a less direct gaze helps the artist see and paint a better whole, unified impression of his subject.  This awareness will help the artist see one consistent set of value calibrations instead of giving into the eye's tendency to recalibrate the value settings each time he looks directly at an area of the subject being painted with his most piercing, nerve sensitive, direct sight----using the eye's foveal receptors. By learning to "defocus," "get the big picture," "half-closing his eyes," and  "looking at the whole picture simultaneously," among other strategies, the artist can get a better idea of the value and color relationships he is trying to convey in his artwork.  ----until next time,  Sandra Galda

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