Monday, August 18, 2008

Shadow Shapes Make for Recognition

One of those 'pass around the internet' pictures came to my mailbox recently, and I think it is one of the best examples supporting my constant assertion that it is the otherwise abstract shapes of the shadows and shapes of the lights that make for recognition in portraiture.

So many of my students and viewers of Dave the Painting Guy get immediately caught up in details, forgetting that an accurate "bigger picture" is, often, what really tells the story, making the face recognizable.

In this manipulated image, above, the details tell you you're looking at Albert Einstein, but if you get up out of your seat, walk back away from your computer about 15 feet and turn around, the shadow shapes connect to images stored in your brain and you recognize, instead, a different celebrity.

The lesson: Sharp details do not contribute to recognition nearly as much as many artists think.