Thursday, October 2, 2014

Brain Activity During Eye Movements

French philosopher Henri Bergson once said: "The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." Psychologist Martin Rolfs has studied what happens in the brain when the eyes jump from one subject to another in the rapid eye movements called saccades.

Martin Rolfs et al, from Nature
These saccades happen largely unconsciously, about three times each second. Before each saccade, our visual system anticipates where it's going to jump next. A small part of our attention is distributed to possible future targets. 

The act of anticipation helps stabilize the image when it appears after the jump. During the moment of anticipation, the brain is beginning to form "theories" of what it's going to see.


Artists creating optical illusions enjoy experimenting with this dynamic of our perception, playing our fovea (the detailed center of visual attention) against our peripheral retina. 

How does this affect us as picture makers? It's important to know that the viewer is interpreting your image not only with their fovea , but also with their peripheral attention, which responds to broader cues. That's why it's so important to step back, squint, look in the mirror, and try to regard your composition from a distance, so that it will read well peripherally, too.

Science Friday video about Martin Rolfs' work



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Clement on the Can — New CLEMENTOONS Adventure


In this brand new episode of CLEMENTOONS, Clement makes a sled out of a crushed soda can and embarks on a wild ride. (Direct link to video)

CLEMENTOONS is my stop-motion animated adventure series about a little cartoon person on a perilous journey through the real world to the toyland of Melville. 


The animation is painstakingly shot frame by frame and then compiled into a movie. In this shot, a geared-down Lego motor pulls the sleds at a constant but very slow rate, while a still camera shoots at five second intervals.


There's no green-screen and no digital effects. When Clement goes through the brambles, he's really going through them.

The episodes will be released out of order. Each one begins with an escape and ends with a cliffhanger. 
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Previous videos:
Clement Meets Miss Bubbles
Clementoons: Behind the Scenes
Song by Frankie Trumbauer "There'll Come a Time," 1927,
Clementoons theme music by The Yanks, "If There Weren't Any Women in the World" 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Turner Paints a Man-of-War


Once while staying as a guest at the estate of Walter Fawkes, J.M.W. Turner was asked to paint a watercolor of a British man-of-war.

His process of painting was extraordinary. According to an eyewitness, "He began by pouring wet paint onto the paper till it was saturated. He tore, he scratched, he scrubbed at it in a kind of frenzy and the whole thing was chaos -- but gradually, and as if by magic the lovely ship, with all its exquisite minutia, came into being, and by luncheon time the drawing was taken down in triumph."

Tomorrow —a new episode of Clementoons.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Troll-Caught Tuna Contest Results


We received almost 40 entries, all in the illustration category, for the "Troll-Caught Tuna" contest. The inspiration was a label on a tuna can that suggested that maybe trolls did the fishing. I asked you to imagine how trolls might catch, sell, or prep the tuna. The results were wonderful, and it was hard to choose. 

The Grand Prize winner is Jaimie Whitbred, who imagined the trolls bagging their fish as they jog along the seafloor, their feet weighted down with cinderblocks. Jaimie says, "Trolls keep their ancestral fishing methods a closely guarded secret. After all, it's these methods which have allowed trolls fisheries to thrive in waters where other fishermen come up empty-hooked." 

Way to go, Jaimie! You win a set of all three of my instructional videos (either DVDs or downloads), plus a "Department of Art" embroidered patch.

 There were three Honorable Mentions, each of whom wins a "Department of Art" patch. First off is German illustrator Helmut Dohle (Poul).

 The second Honorable Mention prize goes to Cory Van Den Akker, who shows how thoroughly monstrous and determined those trolls are when they want to catch their fish.

And the third Honorable Mention goes to Drew Camino. You get a Dept. of Art patch, too!

All winners, please email me your mailing address, and Jaimie, please let me know in what form you want your videos.



Thanks to everyone for entering. I tried to embed a gallery widget to show all the other entries, but Flickr blocked the code on Blogger. You can see all the additional images by following this link directly to the Flickr album.
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Announcement of Troll Caught Tuna Contest

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Night Sketching in Alleys


Night sketching in alleys opens up new worlds of light and color.

Streetlights come in a variety of color casts: the yellow of sodium vapor, the green of mercury vapor, the red of neon, and the blue-white of metal halide. Our eyes can see variations in these light colors that elude the camera.

This casein sketch is about the size of a baseball card. In the semi-darkness, it's difficult to distinguish subtle color differences on the palette, so I take a basic palette of about seven colors.


I take a variety of compact LED lamps with me in order to match the illumination on my sketchbook with the levels and colors in the scene. Clockwise from upper left is a single head book light, a Mighty Bright "Hammerhead" light, and a Petzl Headlamp (customized with a nylon diffuser and a 1/4" 20 nut held on with Sugru as a tripod attachment point). I also sometimes use an Artist's Road Night-Light Cap.

The lights are clipped to my newest sketchbook, titled "Hitting the Whiskers," following my custom of lifting a line from the first page of the sketchbook.


A garbage collector's shirt or uniform is helpful, too, because you want night vehicles to see you. You can pick up these uniforms used at a uniform store. Or you can get a reflective safety vest online.
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Previously: Multi-Colored Streetlights
Vintage Streetlight Collection
More light colors in my book Color and Light

Saturday, September 27, 2014

John Seerey-Lester Doing a Demo

John Seerey-Lester is known for his wildlife, landscape, and historical paintings. He and his wife Suzie are featured on the cover of the upcoming October/November issue of International Artist magazine.

While John did a demo at the SKB Workshop recently in Wyoming, I sat off to the side and painted his portrait in watercolor. 


Here's the first stage. I sketched the lay-in with a raw sienna colored pencil, and then added some watercolor washes on the face, hat, and background.

I then painted the black shirt and the hand, carefully dodging around the suspenders and the bracelet. For the white sideburn hair and the glasses I used a white colored pencil and a touch of gouache. 
John and Suzie kept up a running commentary of painting advice and stories of encounters with big game as the group of students huddled around and asked questions. The apparent color shift is between a digital camera and a scanner.