View Full Version : Individual interpretation

11-25-2011, 01:59 PM
A comment that Chris made on another thread caught my interest.
The comment was about how different people view things around them.

I completely understand that we all interpret differently, i.e.: If we were each asked to paint the same photo every painting would be different-colours/lighting/emphasis/style etc.
But Ive never really thought much about why this is and considered it was just the different ways we liked to put things down on paper.
Do we actually all *see* things differently?
I mean if we were all asked to *copy exactly* from a photo how different would the resulting paintings be then? and would we all disagree on which was the most like the original?
Or is it just how we like to make things look that alters? i.e.: how we interpret them?

Hope that makes some kind of sense :o

11-25-2011, 02:16 PM
I liked the game they used to have around here. We'd each get a square from a photograph to duplicate in pastel. There's be 16 or so pieces to the puzzle and each person would have their own interpretation, usually without a clue about the large piece, yet the picture made of all of them stitched together generally worked very well. Each was very different and it still succeeded.

That's what I like about interpretation. The variations often work. Mood, available pastels, conditions, surface...all combine differently to often be successful in some ways.

There is also the theory that we each see color a bit differently and that lends a different interpretation.

11-25-2011, 02:19 PM
Oh that sounds fun! :D

CM Neidhofer
11-25-2011, 02:51 PM
I've hosted a couple of those games in the past. Even though each individual piece of the puzzle could, and usually was, quite different from the original, I was always amazed at how accurately all the pieces fit back together! They never seemed to be too much "off." Lines matched, objects matched up pretty well between pieces. But the interpretations of each piece were absolutely very original, based on the artist. I'm not sure why that happens either, but it is a very interesting thought. I would also love to hear others' opinions on why this happens! Here is a demo of one of one of the puzzles we did. Original and individual pieces put back together.



11-25-2011, 03:29 PM
Hey Christine! Thanks for pulling this out. Mine is second over, second down. I thought I was doing a lily.

11-25-2011, 03:58 PM
Thats really interesting thanks for posting! :thumbsup:

11-25-2011, 05:21 PM
That looks like it was fun ! : )

11-25-2011, 05:24 PM
Yes, we see differently, we all have differences in the distribution of cones and rods in the retina, and colour perception. The differences seem to be not so big, with normal colour sight, though. It is said women see more nuances than men do (harwired into our genes).

And painting is approximating, and the choices we make are different. Our strokes are different. We can't even make perfect copies of our own paintings... thankfully!

CM Neidhofer
11-25-2011, 05:55 PM
That looks like it was fun ! : )

If enough people are interested, I'd be willing to host another Puzzle project. Let me know and if we get enough people, I'll do it. :clap:

11-25-2011, 06:45 PM
Thanks Charlie, interesting stuff!
I would be interested Christine, sounds fun to me!

11-25-2011, 08:24 PM
I mean if we were all asked to *copy exactly* from a photo how different would the resulting paintings be then? and would we all disagree on which was the most like the original?
Or is it just how we like to make things look that alters? i.e.: how we interpret them?

Hope that makes some kind of sense :o
I think that if we were all asked to copy exactly, then differences would exist - but the differences would be minor. I think you can see this from the student work of some of the old masters, where copying as exactly as possible was one of the foundations of drawing. Here are student drawings of 4 of the Impressionists. Can you tell which is the Cezanne, Bazille, Pissaro and Degas?


It is also interesting to note that many of the older drawing and painting texts consider exact copying to be a necessary ingredient in the studies of an artist, but that copying in itself is not art. It is the artist's individual interpretation that makes it art. The books of Harold Speed make this point numerous times - that drawing and painting is the expression of form and color as seen through the eye's (and brain and feelings) of the individual artist.


P.S. Top, left to right: Degas, Cezanne; Bottom, Bazille, Pissarro

11-25-2011, 11:10 PM
I don't think it's so much "how a person sees the world", but more of "how an artist wants to interpret what they see", or how they want to express themself. In my mind they they are separate (how a person sees, and interpretation), the artist sees something they want to paint, and the interpretation is the feeling or response the artist has, and it shows as the painting emerges. Often times I use color as a response to a feeling I have as I paint, there isn't always an explained reason, but rather a sensation I have as I paint. I don't spend much time analyzing the color, more the value. The color comes from an instinct in the gut, it's not willy nilly, but it's not agonized over either. Sometimes though, I know I want a specific value of green let's say, so my decision will be ruled by color first, but more often it's value first, then color.

Often times I'll pick up a color that I really thought was exactly what was needed in the painting, only to find that it isn't quite right. I think our instinct isn't always right, it just gives us a starting point, a place to respond to. The next stick that I pick up may be very close in color, or value, or entirely different, again a response to what's on the painting already. Expression is a very interesting and fun endeavor, and it becomes a blast when we can forget our hangups and just respond to what's on the paper/canvas. It's not very easy to do, you have to be willing to throw your plans out the window sometimes, but if you can it turns painting into true expression and "individual interpretation" (IMHO).

We may all see the grass as green, or the sky as blue, but not everybody wants to paint it that way, thus "individual interpretation". How many paintings have I seen where the sky wasn't blue and the grass wasn't green, yet, I could recognize where the location of the painting was? Maybe a recognizable landmark was there to give me a clue, or I could just tell by the lay of the land.

I don't necessarily think we see things all that differently. Colors might be a bit different, but not so very much. I think it's more about how we want to express what we see, and how we respond to what is on the canvas/paper. Just my 2 1/2 cents....:)

11-25-2011, 11:44 PM
What an interesting thread! I think this is a fascinating game to play, especially online where we aren't as likely to look over at each other's work.

11-26-2011, 05:39 AM
Great posts Don and Chris thank you!

Im also interested to know if those drawings were all done by the same student, Don?

Chris, thats how I feel too,you and I often seem to be on similar pages even if you are a few books ahead of me :D

I love how everybody expresses differently and also that there is no 'right' or 'wrong'. I used to find time to take part in the weekly drawing thread on D&S and found it absolutely fascinating to compare all the different styles at the end.

11-26-2011, 06:43 AM
Don, I got the Degas right! Taking a chance on him choosing movement. Otherwise, impossible.

We have a lot of preconceptions, like if we want to paint a brown thing we should reach for the brown stick. Or, the sky is always blue.

Biological differences do exist (like colour blindness, which is usually partial), but then we have that thick grey matter between our ears, which has to be trained. After a long association with his wife, my husband can now see colours in the shadows he thought were grey -- and see it accurately. Looking at things we perceive roughly the same, and a new world opens if we actually also see what we are looking at. That seeing can be trained.

Some of us respond more to form, others to line, or colour, or dramatic/calm values. We may prefer a smooth slick painting, or a gooey impasto one. Careful shading, or wild flecks of pigment. Oh, it is probably endless! Thankfully!

11-26-2011, 10:45 AM
Hi everyone,
The topic that Christine was mentioning (the painting puzzle) was really very interesting. Sounds like a fun project. I paint with a group of artist friends every Tuesday. I think I will ask them if they interested in doing a puzzle painting.
I am new to this site and have enjoyed reading what everyone has been doing. My favorite medium is pastel, but I do work in oils and acrylic. Now that it is Fall, I have a break from working on paintings for the exhibits with my pastel society and another art league. Though, I do have to plan on what paintings I will work on for our Spring shows. Right now I am working on a pastel of my daughter-in-law's cat that had died a year ago. My goal is to get it done for Christmas. I have uploaded my first reference photo and my goal is to submit the finished piece for any comments.
Donna :)

11-26-2011, 10:56 AM
We do all see the same, but what we see goes thru the filter of the mind; and then our body (hand) renders what we see on a surface. It is this process of going thru the mind, body, and "the heart" that leads to individual results.
The only case where this may be a different scenario is when the artist wants to do a true photo-realistic image with every color, value, and line representing a photographic image.
love the topic.


11-26-2011, 11:31 AM
Christine, I'd be interested after the first of the year.

The one you posted was the only painting I've ever done in LaCarte - need to use up all that paper!

11-26-2011, 04:34 PM
Christine, I'd love to participate, at any time!

I agree with Chris and Charlie, and thank heaven for all of those different interpretations.

The class I took with Dianna Ponting was pretty clear, we had a drawing to transfer, and suggested colors to use. But every single one of those paintings had an individual mark, all of them wonderful.

I just wish we could do in life like we do in painting; celebrate our differences. The world would be a much better place!

11-26-2011, 05:39 PM
I would also like to add :lol:

We do all see the same, but what we see goes thru the filter of the mind; and then our body (hand) renders what we see on a surface. It is this process of going thru the mind, body, and "the heart" that leads to individual results.
The only case where this may be a different scenario is when the artist wants to do a true photo-realistic image with every color, value, and line representing a photographic image.
love the topic.
This is what I tell my students.

11-26-2011, 05:44 PM
Aw, let's add the soul, too. Can we see the inner radiance of form, and depict it? That's where we touch true art!

11-26-2011, 06:15 PM
Thanks for all your great thoughts!
Love this Chuas :

I just wish we could do in life like we do in painting; celebrate our differences. The world would be a much better place!

SO true! :heart: :thumbsup:

11-26-2011, 06:21 PM
I think it's a bit of both. One of my students did absolutely gorgeous impressionism. I found out she was legally blind. She smiled and said "That's what I see." Her impairment cut right past all the distracting details and she was able to see the light easier because of that.

I took a color perception test and did not come out with perfect color vision. It surprised me. I wasn't that bad but not perfect. This may affect my palette, it's possible that some reds may be different and livelier to viewers with perfect color perception than they are to me. It won't hurt my paintings too much though, they're very near colors and I try to liven up my color passages.

I know that much more than that subtle limit on my color perceptions, a few shades of red-orange fusing together and a green-gray area, I've learned to see color differently. The results are incredible. I look at older paintings or simpler sketches where I just match local color and the ones where I play with color and it's night and day.

More and more I'm moving past accurate copying including accurate copying local color into interpretation. I'm starting to see some similarities in my art across different mediums that surprise me. Pastel painting and Sumi-E ink painting are so unrelated, yet sometimes I wind up having that Asian influence in my pastels.

The more I learn, the easier it is to tell that I did something.

I didn't know those painters well enough to recognize any of them, but the one I liked best turns out to be the Degas, which makes sense in retrospect.

11-26-2011, 07:05 PM
Good points Robert. Thanks

Charlie you always show your true colors.;)

11-26-2011, 08:35 PM
Ya, we don't all see quite the same. My plein air buddy and I have had several discussions about what colors are or aren't there. :lol: He seems to see more blue than me while I seem to see more red. My Dad is officially color blind. The worst color for him is green, he simple cannot see it. Green looks brown to him. I can't imagine that. No green? I don't know if I could continue living. :lol:


11-27-2011, 10:01 AM
Oh, I forgot to mention that I have noticed a slight difference in perception of colour between my eyes (er... no I don't mean a 3rd eye :-). The right eye sees more red than the left, like a photo filter. Very little, hardly noticeable. I do very well in colour perception tests. So I figure that if there can be a difference, however small, in one individual...

Nearsighted people are said to perceive colour better. Robert, that's cool with your legally blind person, I take it she had extreme nearsightedness, so, for her the world would be gorgeous lost-edge fields of vibrating colour. Every drawback seems to carry some advantage with it.

11-27-2011, 01:47 PM
Not to be too Zen: But whatever is there is there. Again it is the filter of the body (eyes especially, whether it is color blindness, color variations, whatever) movement of the hand while rendering, etc. that make variations. We do all see the same thing......but in different ways. Thanks goodness, I don't see a cow and you tell me you see a Large toilet. reality still grounds us. :lol:

11-27-2011, 03:05 PM
Actually, I beleive a formal statement like that would be the opposite of Zen. :D If we all percieve things a little differently then how do we know what reality is? You say, "Do you see that cow?" and I say "Yes, I see that cow". However the word "cow" is a human construct, meaningless unless we speak the same language and even then having meaning only to each other in that moment. A word does not describe what a cow is.....it just is. Who's to say that I cannot look at a cow and have the image of a toilet appear in my mind's eye? Everything is everything. Now that's getting a little closer to Zen I think. :lol:


11-27-2011, 04:10 PM
Ahhh....but the cow is still the cow to our eyes even if we call it a toilet. And if someone's eyes interpret that cow as a toilet, then there is something Horribly wrong with those eyes. :lol:
A rose by any other name is still a rose.

Also David when I speak of the "filter" of the body during observation I don't mean the "mind's eye", but the eye of the body.

The Painter "takes his body with him". Indeed we can't imagine how a mind could paint. It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings. to understand these transubstantiations we must go back to the working, actual body-not the body as a chunk of space or a bundle of functions but the body which is an intertwining of vision and movement.
I have only to see something to know how to reach it or feel it. (and I might add: paint it).
Above in red from Maurice Merleau-Ponty The Primacy of Perception.
parenthetical in blue...mine.

11-27-2011, 04:12 PM
"Ceci n'est pas une pipe" Magritte.


Zen and Conceptual Art.

11-27-2011, 05:04 PM
Charlie: :thumbsup: :music:

"Monet is just an eye! But what an Eye". Gauguin.

11-28-2011, 03:28 PM

' Ah , Watson . you look but you do not see . '
- Sherlock Holmes .
- attributed to Sir A C Doyle .

in one story , Holmes is asked by a desparate but skeptical client
to defend his skill .
Holmes begins by describing how/where the man shaves ,
and goes further and further , arriving at Why the man came in the first place .
= all observation/visual cues and an understanding of behavior .
non-verbal , but for the description with words of the narrative ( time/linear ) .

i keep asking myself ' how did people communicate going back in history , and pre-history ' ?

most of it seems to be oral ( sound ) and visual ( pre-literate ) .
different places , cultures , times , circumstances , etc.
discover/describe ( image , word and vice versa ) a thing ,
and then the matter of conveying/defending or secreting it.

these thoughts have helped me beyond the ' doing my thing ' attitude
( which is mostly literal/local colour/figuring out the sticks )
to expand self-teaching , and into the word ' appreciation '
( now comes the written word/concept thing :rolleyes: )

i've checked my eyes and double-checked with stage lighting gels ;
green , blue .
- probably why i'm occupied with the umber/sienna/red palette s lately .

my two cents .

Ed :}

11-28-2011, 03:29 PM
One of the things Johannes Vloothuis says in his classes again and again is that in a painting, we're creating symbols of what we see. Even in realism we're simplifying it rather than rendering every detail of what we can see.

I've noticed this in good realism, when the softened edges are accurate and the subtler shadows are accurate, the artist's still going to heighten drama around a focal area and arrange things or choose a view that has less intensity or contrast around the edges. I didn't realize it until I had actually started doing it and then studying realist paintings like Ponting's.

I think that even when something is in detailed photorealism, there's often still interpretation. Some of it from the artist's physical perceptions, more of it from the artist's experience and emotional reaction to the photo or subject.

I just signed up for the new puzzle painting project when they get it together, or pre-signed anyway. I'm looking forward to it. If I get the hue/value transitions placed accurately at the edges, my piece should fit the whole well. I think it'll be a lot more distinctive than what I've done before though.

I know that people's strokes become like handwriting. The more skilled they are, the more their techniques are distinctive. It may be the same psychological process. I've seen people's handwriting that looks like formal calligraphy but even among calligraphers, a handwriting expert can distinguish who did what.

11-28-2011, 03:55 PM
on a flat surface , calligraphy/iconographs/pictographs
are more real than ' realsim ' .
- there is no attempt to fool the eye .
> information can be conveyed , nonetheless .


Ed :}

ps. for the movie-minded , a freeze frame does the same thing .
pps . perhaps the Impressionists were revisiting icons of the familiar
for most folks , and pride of the ordinaire
with new materials and a fresh eye .

11-28-2011, 05:49 PM
I love this thread! thank you all!

Im not sure about my cow being a toilet though :eek: :lol: :lol:

11-28-2011, 07:24 PM
when it's on the grill, there will be an obvious difference between a cow and a toilet.

one of the reasons I always check out the spotlight is I enjoy every one's interpretations of the same picture.

great thread.