"Perceptual shifts" during art education

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  1. #1
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    Talking "Perceptual shifts" during art education

    I don't want to be spammy, but I posted this some time ago in the wrong (schools) forum, so no one seemed to give a damn. I wish I could delete that one. However, I think it may be something of quite some interest for a number of clueless people like I was a bit of time ago.

    It is regarding some milestones along the path of art education, and it's both old news to anyone who already has a time-long art foundation, and yet something ignored by many art students and even professionals.

    I recently began reading a very nice book by painter Ian Roberts called "Mastering Composition". From the very beginning of the book I noticed it was not promising magical solutions or 'try-my-infalible' methods to make astonishing art like lots of other art books I've read, but rather spoke quite frankly about how he was trying to cause in the reader subtely from beginning to end a "perceptual shift" regarding composition.

    The term shocked me, since I had never read about it explicitly before, but yet it sounded very familiar. I had felt that "shift" before.

    In fact, I exactly remember when. After a long period shading every pencil drawing that I did, very specially life models, one day in bed, before getting asleep, I suddenly felt -like some kind of divine revelation- that I understood about value contrasts and the meaning of 'lighting/color scheme'; a big chunk of what had me struggling every time I tried to make some painting and it looked so dull even though I'd stuff it with detail. By the next day, the leap in my freedom while doodling stuff had been huge, and it had all happened just inside of my brain. While in my case it was a sudden thing, it seems to happen a bit more gradually to a lot of people.

    Anyway, that day I was shocked and didn't know if that was a common thing on art education, or if it might be kind of weird stuff I'd better shut up. Then, when some time later I readed the term "perceptual shift" in Roberts' book, it made a lot of sense. So basically, art education is not about attending classes and expecting to 'learn' in the most common sense of the word, but it is rather about having changes in the way we process information, and that is what teachers and exercises aim for. Is art education basically just a sucession of sudden shifts in our own frame of mind, then?

    I've been recently very interested in discovering about that subject. If that is so, then there is one shift about value, one about projecting what we see into our 2D brain using composition, and about how many common 'shifts' are there? Do you feel your academic training is complete (fully consider yourself an artist) after going through all of them? Are they sudden or gradual, and most interestingly, what kind of art exercises lead to each one of them?

    I guessed it could be a great help, specially for students here, to listen about that idea, and have people sharing their thoughts, or perhaps even seasoned professionals commenting their experiences or dissecting the changes in our way of "seeing" from the time we all suck at drawing to when one becomes a true master.

    Any thoughts?

    Last edited by Abelo; February 18th, 2010 at 08:38 PM.
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  3. #2
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    I've done Art assignments several times more than I needed to just to see if there's really anything to learn from them, or what I can learn from them Even then, if I don't learn something from them while I'm awake, maybe I'll learn or get better at something while I sleep. and then a day or two later, I try the assignment again. Chances are I'm better at it. Have I Learned something ? maybe. Not in the form of facts. but doing.

    ~"With a little hope, and alot of try, anything is possible."~
    ~"The harder You work, the better life gets."~
    ~"The pain doesn't last, but the gain will last forever."~
    ~"Fear is my courage." ~Mr_S_14
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    I think you are referring to what's also known as an epiphany: Reaching a moment where you gain new understanding that effects allot of what you thaught you knew.

    It's awesome when that happens but they wear off after a day hehehe!!!
    The mind integrates new understanding so quickly it's not such a big deal the next moment.


    "Perceptual shift" might be something else though, it sounds like a more technical mental phenominae. Looking at negative spaces momentarily are seen as a mental shift from normal seeing, moving from 2D flat to 3D creative projection is also a cool shift to experience when you first get it.

    The latest shift I had the other day is almost like negative spaces in 3D, or left side thinking in 3D where I intentionally draw my next line the way I'm not accustomed to(The road less travelled), this made my brain do some funny and surprisingly cool desired stuff like better placement and allighnment and orientation.

    Perceptual habit and motor habit will stand in the way of learning better ways of doing things. Allways look for new perceptual angle's you have not taken/exercised before, they all add up.

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    Well, from my own experience, it is more of a permanent switch in the way you process information. You pretty much stop seeing just 'objects' but start noticing volume contrasts between one mass (even if it is just part of the same object) and the one it has behind in a constant basis.

    What's curious is that you might have listened that three thousand times from an art teacher and you'd go like "ok, mental note: must see volume contrasts" but you never really do it until that "shift" suddenly makes it a constant, unconscious processing of your visual stimuli.

    I think the fact that my "heavenly experience" was sudden is mostly anecdotical, but that shift eventually happens -even if it is more of a gradual change- to most artists at some moment of their education, I believe. And there seem to be different 'perceptual shifts'.

    Last edited by Abelo; February 19th, 2010 at 10:11 AM.
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    I call them "lightbulb moments".

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    Lightbulb moments are great as it means you've shifted up a level.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zaorr View Post
    Perceptual habit and motor habit will stand in the way of learning better ways of doing things.
    Hmm, I like that line.

    Makes me wonder how much time I've wasted just dragging the pencil around, instead of actually practicing. And I'm not talking doodling either.

    I don't like the whole "pencil mileage = success" way of thinking. I think it would be more efficient to spend 2 hours a day fully comprehending and aware of every millimeter of line you put down, than to spend 6 hours just grinding down lead.

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    exactly

    If anyone ever whatched a Villpu movie and wondere'd why he's almost commanding/demanding/asking his next move to have volume, sense of space etc..Who is he talking to?? It's almost like he's hitting his brain like a TV set untill it get's the right picture.

    LOL!!

    I figured out what I was doing that was so great. Just by going counter clock wise instead of clockwise around volume I ended up having a new sensation of pulling things in from their farthest corners. I was accustomed to work from the visible front face over arround and behind forms. It was so phenominal that I imagined nakid ladies all night long. Hehehehehe!!! Who needs 3D TV just try to latch on to the corners you don't see and pull the rest forward. Gave my porn, I mean refrerance a whole new dimention. LOL!!!

    Damn... I was so desperate for a brainwave moment that I had to imagine having one. LOL!!

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    This is why it's important to pay attention to everything that you can. This is why we, as individuals, can get two or three times better at art - even without touching pencil to paper, or pen to tablet. (Granted, not often, but still possible, and you still have to do art to prove it afterwards).

    I remember aging from 15, to 18...and going back to art more seriously. I just understood more of the world, everything was so much easier to make sense of in a picture.

    It pisses me off a little bit, though. The more I learn, the more I learn to accept some things that I used to be VERY drastically against.

    And a lot of times, it's not even realizing that I was wrong before. Just that there's more to it than just being "right" about something, there's knowing why. And then discovering even more reasons as to why. And then eventually it gets to a point where your original point of view, while not wrong in its reasoning, is irrelevant. Because you're just on another plane of existence.

    Very annoying. But still - humbling, and very worthwhile. An experience worthwhile as both an artist and a person.

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