Cultivating Illusions

posted in: Blog, Classes, Painting | 6

We begin by learning how to see, hear, speak, touch, and walk. None of this is automatic. If we are blindfolded for a period of time after birth our visual cortex will not fully develop.  If we have an untreated wandering eye then, our cortex will disregard the information coming from that eye. It’s true across the animal kingdom. We learn to see and we add to our ability to see as we do with all our senses.

We acquire a sense of volume by correlating our touch, our grasp of a glass to the visual recognition of a translucent cylinder. We sit in the high chair and drop a spoon to the floor to see how things fall not, to just irritate our parents. We slowly acquire neural networks that ignite when similar motions and forms spike the recognition of similarities. Memories are generated across our neural net. Objects have consonance with similar objects in our cortex. Memories don’t live as one item in one place they occupy a variety of locations and, they are mutating identities with differences across our entire brain. As a result we can lose parts of memories and still seem to retain them. We can build on them and we can spark their perception in paintings, movies, novels, and music.

In the following examples I have made loose suggestions of objects, of flowers.  These are blurred but, they have an enough of a relationship with past floral encounters to have you guess them into existence. Perhaps they will even expand your definition and memory of flowers because of their elastic identities. Art expands perception.

To stimulate my imagination into a zone of discovery I begin with an older painting as a substrate (example 1). Parts of it will be rediscovered and incorporated into a new image. The new image is the result of my memories finding consonance with elements surfacing in the paint, elements hinted at in the shadows submerged in the substrate.

I don’t want to superimpose too much intention on the work. I want to find what is emerging in the paint. This is the advice of artists from DaVinci to Picasso. I find a painting that has roots in the history of art as I recognize it (example 2)

Example 1. Spring Forest Fantasy, step one, 24×24 oil on Dibond.

Example 2. Spring Forest Fantasy, step two,

Even when taking photos I return to manipulate them in software to find opportunities for discovery (example 3). Or, when taking the photo I shake the camera to blur the effects to see what else I can find in the image.

Example 3. Layered and blurred photo,

In  Spring Fever Mystery I begin with a simple design, light vs. dark with a light foreground and, eventually a smaller light triangle at the top. This design subliminally suggests a feeling of space as well as creating a sequence of receding patterns.

Example 4. Step one, Spring Fever Mystery, oil on Dibond, 24×24,

Example 5. Step two, Spring Fever Mystery,

Example 6. Step three, Spring Fever Mystery,

I hope you can join me in one of my on line Zoom classes with demonstrations and individual painting critiques. They are available at either or

Also, take a look at some of my recent work and others in a new show at . The shows brid

6 Responses

  1. Janine Robertson

    Fresh and lively and I love the backlit flowers in example 6. Beautiful.

    • dd_admin

      Thank you Janine. More spring flower ideas to come…and moving them toward abstraction

  2. Edward

    I had to stop and just stare at example 6 for some unknown reason within myself. I do so love that particular picture.

  3. Melanie Ward

    The spring flowers against the blurred darker background just glow! Beautiful!

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