What Paul did with Multiple Contours

Here’s an example of Paul Cezanne’s use of multiple contours in this detail of a painting from the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

[Top of the post:  Still life with Apples and Peaches, by Paul Cezanne, 1905, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC]


Effusive Illusions

The same basic elements used by this picture’s designers to get a stereo-scopic image — and it really is amazing — were used less rigorously and with more nuance by 19th century French painter Paul Cezanne to create a sense of depth in still life.  Following in his case instinct not science, Cezanne watched and observed — sometimes with great annoyance — the ways that the edges of things would shift in space because of the different angles of vision between the right and left eyes.

This constant jumping around of contours to which the artist over time became extremely sensitive adds a deep irony to his famous remonstrance to a wigglesome model.  “Does an apple move?!” he’s reported as saying.  Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it does.  Certainly in a Cezanne still life apples, peaches and other fruits appear to move about quite a bit.  And following this optical path faithfully to its natural conclusion, Cezanne created images of surprisingly evocative dimension.  While his pictures are not stereo-scopic, they come as close perhaps as art can come to being there.

And just as with the confusing image above, a certain amount of staring is required — even in Cezanne — to get the full sensation of space.  The optical illusion is an exceedingly clever trick of science, whereas Cezanne’s art is a thousand-fold more subtle.  In both cases, though, objects with multiple contours is the ticket.

What has illusion to say about truth and context and attention?  That we see only a small fraction of what life presents to the mind.

I tried viewing the illusion on my computer screen and it does work with a large image.  Whether it works at this scale … I’m not sure.  To see the image hidden inside the pattern you have to focus beyond the picture plane as though looking at a distant object.  Some serious patience and staring is required at first.  However, after you’ve located the picture, you can retrain your brain to find it again at a faster pace.  It’s also possible to see the opposite of the intended image (a kind of “mold” of it) by focusing in front of the image.

I use this copyrighted material without permission, and for that reason I strongly urge all readers finding this post to immediately purchase National Geographic Kids for each of your children, for yourselves, for your large extended families, for your neighbors and for their kids, for total strangers you stumble upon — and that alone ought to add up to at least 120 subscriptions per reader.  It’s a great magazine!  So, it’s well worth shelling out the big bucks.

Lawyers for National Geographic Kids who do not find this endorsement strong enough can write to me at my delux office suite at the Radisson Hotel in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Come visit my store on CafePress!

[Top of the post:  Optical illusion from National Geographic Kids.  Courtesy of National Geographic Kids.  With many, many deep grateful thanks to National Geographic Kids, the world’s, solar system’s the Universe’s best ever kids magazine.]

Alice’s Looking Glass

Alice the cat loves to look in the mirror because Alice thinks that her own feline face is one of the most beautiful spectacles of Nature!  Hence the art of self-portraiture comes naturallly to her.  Here, she has drawn herself using one of the artist’s most fundamental tools:  the extremely fun and highly forgiving medium of the erasable magnetic tablet — or tavoletta, as it’s been known in other places and times.

Alice gazes into her picture like Narcissus (Νάρκισσος) gazed into the pond and with equally mythic consequences.  It’s a great perplexing paradox of selfhood that we can be both observer and observed all in the quiet confines of our cerebral cortex — or more properly, in our minds — wonderful echo chamber and house of mirrors that it is.  One can hardly imagine a place where more optical and other illusions abound than within its walls.

Hold on for the ride — Life is quite a trip!

Pst — Hey!  Got Mice?

Alice!  Stay away from those koi!  (Sorry, but cat’s will be cats.)

[Top of the post:  Alice’s Self-Portrait by Aletha Kuschan]

Introducing Alice

What?  Did you expect me to say something?  Cats can’t talk.  Well, actually, this one can.  But I don’t feel like talking right now!

[Top of the post: Alice the Cat  (And please don’t anyone tell her she’s a “toy.”)  by Aletha Kuschan]

Big Tree

This tree is large enough to give some good shade in the garden of one’s imagination.  I’ve already mentioned that my green thumb comes from cadmium lemon and a bit of viridian, but my gardening can get a little crazy sometimes.  This grew much larger than anticipated.  And it’s still not finished.

Goodness only knows what it will look like eventually.  I haven’t got a clue!

[Top of the post:  ATree of Life by Aletha Kuschan]

Feeling Arboreal (finding the inner tree)

If anyone recognizes what this is:  congratulations!  You might have a fine career ahead of you in psychology!

I made this drawing to obsessively reinterate an idea I’ve been working on — relative to a large mural sized painting whose subject I’m frankly at a loss to explain.  However, I’ve been around the art block enough times now to trust my instincts and to believe that a picture, whose meaning is baffling even to me, its author, may well hold ideas that can matter to the larger audience of my fellow human beings, 3 billion or so of my closest friends. (You gotta think big.)

It’s a tree.  I don’t know why I feel compelled to portray it this way, rather than to make it more conventionally tree-like.  But there it is.  And let me tell you, your subconscious mind is a fabulous, truly wonderful and remarkable thing!  I have stalled on this idea for well over a year, working on other things, and forgeting about this picture. 

However, last night as I was driving, I turned a corner and saw a large tractor trailer stopped at a light perpendicular to me at a street onto which I was making a right turn.  In the general darkness, as I turned, I noted the enormous shadow of a tree cast onto the side of the trailer.  Imagine that huge flat surface being like a canvas, here was the image I’ve wanted to portray in ridiculously large scale, here it was on the side of this truck as on a great, crazy moving canvas!  Sometimes you feel as though the great loving God and nature and your own mind are all meeting at the same intersection.   It’s a great shot in the arm, let me tell you!

Comments, explanations, psycho-analysis are all welcome.

[Top of the post:  the author’s small compositional drawing for a very large enigmatic painting.  By Aletha Kuschan]