The World is as You See It

“You have to choose where you look, and in making that choice you eliminate entire worlds.”

– Barbara Bloom

Artists crop reality. That’s what makes us artists. We choose what to include and what not to include – this is the biggest and most important decision to be made about each piece. We seek a pleasing arrangement of the objects we include – this is composition. But more fundamental than composition is decisions about what is there and what isn’t.

My personal experience is that this “reality cropping” goes beyond our artwork and actually directs the way we see. We actively filter our visual reality according to our artistic intentions. For example, if I am interested in painting abstracts, I seem to notice more abstract shapes and colors around me. If I’m working on a series of plant and flower images, I notice more blossoms and blooms than before. My eye naturally goes to them – the reality is the same as it’s always been but I’m processing it in a different way. One of the great benefits of being an artist is the way in which our visual sense is sharpened and expanded in a way that alters our experience of the world.

7 responses to “The World is as You See It

  1. I could not agree more Bob. It’s like when you learn a new word, suddenly you hear people using that word all the time. People didn’t start saying it more obviously, it’s like you say, you’re just attuned to it.

  2. This is all so true, Bob, Susan and Ed. What i love so much in your blog, Bob, is to find my art experiences described in exactly the way I feel and understand them.
    But there are many other reasons too why i love to come here!
    Your art itself is surely one! Great photo again.

    As I was about 24 years old I remember one day feeling very down. The most effective way for me to fight against a bad mood is to spend a lot of money. At that time I was a mathematics student in Goettingen (Germany). I took ALL my savings from the bank and went and bought a photo equipment. Making photos then I just started to discover the concrete world. Before I was looking to everything around me in a very abstract way, not even colours existed as such, just relationships and interactions between colours, shapes, lines…
    My perception of the world changed dramatically, and this is how I became an artist.
    When I was teaching art I made exactly the same experiences as Susan. I also encouraged people who did not dare to start with the words:

    “You will see, the world around you and the everyday life will become much richer for you then!”

    When I made the series “Fantascapes”, after a while, not only I cropped everything which was not dancing almond trees, but i could not see the trees other as dancing figures any more. I really could not. I tried to reduce them to trees again, but my perception did not want, it was a fascinating experience. and after another while I even saw figures everywhere, the mountains were figures, the rocks too… my whole real world had become a fantascape! I quite enjoyed that, even if I felt a little bit “banana” as Kevin used to say…

    In fact I think that it is what i most enjoy in art: the way how it makes us experience reality and ourselves.

  3. Similar experiences and thoughts…

    Miki, you are not only talented you are very smart too…I convince myself everytime I read your comments…

    Bob, you landscape has a very special quality for me (apart its intrinsec color and compositional qualities): it is nostalgia inducing… Very rare and precious quality… Sometimes, not very often, I was wandering around with my camera in the back country around Sibiu, Transylvania (yes, traditional Dracula country…si non e vero e ben trovatto…) and that was, about, the feeling I got there… old orchards, something very old and very nice about the autumn like colors… saturated but not too `bariollés`(multicolored?)

  4. Miki – Interesting to hear how far our perception can be taken over by our artistic imagination! Interesting also to hear how you entered the art world via photography. Not many make the switch from that to painting. Do you ever do “serious” photography any more?

    Danu – this shot was taken in the California foothills at a little known place called Copperopolis. It is now the ruins of an old copper mining facility. Not as romantic as Dracula country! It is wonderful to wander around an “old” area of the country. Evokes lots of buried, subconscious memories…

  5. Thanks Danu, same compliment back! Bob is very smart too, isn’t he?

    No, I don’t do serious photography any more, and I don’t believe I ever did. I just loved to make photos, and still do. As in painting I am more from the spontaneous type, I hate thoughts and long preparations (lack of patience and discipline in art), so my photos were always snap shots.
    At some point in my life I had a very old friend, who was a professional photographer, and he took me sometimes in his dark chamber (is that the correct expression in English?). I loved the process of developing the photos, the “tricks” to reach some effects, I loved how the pictures gradually appeared on the paper… this is something which the digital photography has lost, i feel… but well, one can get a similar pleasure of discovery working on photos in the computer!

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