Monday, February 8, 2021

Does Sketching Cure Inattentional Blindness?

Here's another "The Ask" feature coming up in The Artist's Magazine.

I mention that "I feel like my eyes aren't even open until my observation is focused by drawing or painting. Even an hour later, I keep discovering things that escaped my notice at first: 'Where did that telephone pole come from?'"

There's a name for what I'm talking about: "inattentional blindness." Wikipedia says that it occurs "when an individual fails to perceive an unexpected stimulus in plain sight, purely as a result of a lack of attention rather than any vision defects or deficits. When it becomes impossible to attend to all the stimuli in a given situation, a temporary “blindness” effect can occur, as individuals fail to see unexpected but often salient objects or stimuli."

I did a post about inattentional blindness back in 2015, and there I shared the famous video of the guy in a gorilla suit walking through two teams of people passing a ball back and forth. 

Why does painting from life help us to see beyond our habitual blinders? It's a special kind of visual mindfulness that requires us to focus sequentially on different qualities of a scene. First, when we choose a subject, we try to see the gestalt in thumbnail terms. Then we concentrate on attributes of the scene, such as proportions, line of action, or perspective while we're starting to draw the scene. After that we might think about value relationships, textures, or color contrasts. 

But even with this heightened and sequentially strategized perception, we still only see what we're looking for. Art teachers often say that learning to paint is really about learning to see. That's true, but it only captures a small slice of the truth. We only see a small slice of the world at any given time. In fact, what we see is not objective reality, but rather a representation that is manufactured in our heads. We don't photograph the world like a camera. What we see are the predictive models that we store in our own brains. 


widdly said...

I find when sketching the problem is usually zeeing too much not too little.

Kristina said...

This reminds me of this TED talk: I had to rewind several times to catch the various attention tricks he played.