Painting and Visual Memory

how our brain processes what we see

Our brain receives 10 images per second from our eyes, each one overlapping the previous as it fades away. If you set a camera shutter speed to 1/10 of a second you would get a lot of blurry photos from the movement of the camera and subjects, but our eyes are marvelous in the way they can keep our focus while following movement.
A good rule for all painting, especially with a moving figure is to select a point of focus, the exact spot where your eye would focus. If you are following that point within the picture then everything that is still or moving in a different direction would be moving across your picture. Although moving in space, the point that your eye follows is really ‘stillness’ within the picture. And still objects that your point of focus passes by would be as ‘movement’ in the picture.
This movement would vibrate softly at 1/10 of a second. These vibrations being noticed at the edges where ‘moving’ and ‘still’ objects interact, and becoming more noticeable as objects cross with greater speed or nearness.

When capturing a moment, instead of an instant you would record various impressions as the eye twitches around a scene. In one moment the eye captures a first impression which would echo as a second and third impressions take precedent, possibly returning for the first impression once again. In this way a moment would capture overlapping instances, with the focal point of the last instant remaining strongest, sharpest, and most active with the focal points of previous frames fading in importance.

In one scene all the elements of the picture need to be given their place in the moment, their order in the flickering of the eye. Possibly only 3/10 of a second, with 1/10 dominating.

Researchers in museums have found that 30 seconds is the average amount of time visitors spend in front of works of art. After looking at a work of art it for only 30 seconds, students will use their visual recall to discuss what they noticed in order to demonstrate that really seeing and reflecting on a work of art requires time.

When we do we form a real memory of the actions required to undertake a task. We build on our initial attempts. The memory to ski, to dance, to swim, to skip, to ride a bicycle, to write, to draw, to pay a musical instrument – these cannot be caught by a complex collection of digital recording devices.

All praise to the blogger Mark Stewart but does such a record need to be entertaining to gain validity and so a place in Digital Lives  at the British Library. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009. p. 225)



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