Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Look at the circle of red dots with your eyes relaxed. It is surrounded by a ring of blue dots against a black background. 

Does one group of dots appear to come forward or rise above the other? Is there any apparent lateral movement of the dots in relation to each other?

Here are some horizontal stripes: white, black, yellow, and blue, with a stonework texture throughout. Does the figure look flat, or do some of the stripes seem to advance forward toward you, like shiplap siding? 

About half of the viewers of all of these illusions perceive the warm colors to be coming forward relative to the blue and black colors, and many see other movement happening. Some people see the reverse: the blue parts ahead of the red or yellow 

These figures were created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka (link to website) to illustrate chromostereopsis, a phenomenon where warm colors seem to come forward while cool colors appear to recede.

Early stained glass windows suggests that artists have used the effect to create the illusion of depth in a 2D surface.

According to color expert David Briggs, "This phenomenon results from the effect on our stereoscopic vision of the different focal points of long and short wavelength rays, causing a red object to appear to be on a distinctly nearer plane than an equidistant blue object for the majority of observers." 


arturoquimico said...

I've been gardening since the 70's... if you want the garden to appear bigger, plant your cool vegetative plants (greens / blues) near the back and warm plants / flowers in front. Didn't think about this with regard to stained glass windows...

CerverGirl said...

I recall the discussion of the appearance of warms forward and cools receding in your YouTube tape of a reading of Ruskin, if I recall correctly--I will listen again--all very thought provoking, and interesting to experience our magnificent faculty of vision and mind.

James Gurney said...

CerverGirl, I almost brought up that point, glad you did. Ruskin argued against the compositional dogma that all colors get cooler as they go back in space, bringing up the example of the bright orange setting sun, 93 million miles away. Also, white objects such as clouds also get more orange as they go back. The effect of chromostereopsis seems to require fairly specific conditions to be observable, so I don't know if we can apply any conclusions broadly to include warm and cool colors in a naturalistic painting.

Rich said...

It's always been said that our senses are "tricksters";-) Not to say they are leading us away from "reality"; but still, though,

Rich said...

correction: wanted to say "astray",... instead of "away".