Visual Adventures in the Hills

The Old Man's Cave Lower Falls as seen under the stone arched walk bridge
Bridge of Dreams

“Visual literacy is the ability to see, to understand, and ultimately to think, create, and communicate graphically.” Anon

Today’s art and the creativity required in developing new worthy compositions rely on the foundational use of visual language.

Our insights into the visual language has grown significantly over the past century yet educational courses rarely provide course material that matches the verbal language studies taught today.

Evolving art as interpretations of ones subjective being requires personal choices often used to strengthen and reinforce the visual message.

These choices, when encompassing detailed knowledge of the visual language along with other aesthetic qualities, provide a basis for bringing artworks to maturity.

This blog endeavors to provide some insights into the visual language and its application in the world of most art.

Just as verbal and written language has developed from letters, words, spelling, sentences, grammar, phrasing and syntax, the meanings of which give rise our mental thoughts and a realization/perception based on their qualities and juxtaposition, the visual language has similar contextual awareness using dot, line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color, tone, scale, direction, point of view, dimension and many more elements that parallel the written language fundamentals.

The visual language and its syntax allows an understanding of the mental recognition processes within our consciousness.

I begin with giving greatly simplified insights into how the brain’s visual pathways construct this conscious recognition.

Light reflections strike our optic nerves; our eyes being a wonderment of nature’s design through thousands of generations. The impulses then travel to our brains visual cortex where:

(A) Many optic nerve signals register in an area that develop edge definitions.
(B) Other impulses stimulate a separate area that defines tonal gradations.

Both of these areas, A and B, initiate internal recognition awareness that together translate the visual stimulus into simple shape(s).

Developing this simple shape stimulus, the mind sends the two separate stimuli, A and B, signals to:

The Cerebral Cortex – This develops recognition of the foreground/background objects from the light impulses.
The Parietal Lobe – Compares this information to your stored mental database for recognition of shapes, objects, faces, etc.

The processed stimulus from the Cerebral Cortex and the Parietal Lobe are then presented to our Frontal Lobe where our internalized feelings and our higher emotions are developed into the overall visual stimulus “bundle”.

This visual stimulus “bundle” is now passed to our Prefrontal Lobe where decisions on saying or doing something become possibilities based on this whole collection of processes.

These processes are registered almost instantly from the moment the eyes capture the light from each scene that we consciously focus upon.

This understanding of our visual stimulus process provides an awareness of the hierarchy within the mind which gives us some insights to the priorities and importance each visual impulse generates.

Understanding of an artwork’s structural compositional elements is based on recognition of the preferences within the visual pathways of the brain.

These are listed by the priority the brain uses for recognition due to ancestral inheritance.

A) Light to dark areas both globally in our compositions and also in local areas within the composition. Our visual awareness processes prioritize this first.
B) High contrast to low contrasts – A close second for visual awareness
C) High sharpness to less sharpness
D) Object recognition
E) In focus to blur
F) High saturation to low saturation
G) Warmer colors move “forward” and cooler colors “recede” (Foreground and Background recognition)

Being conscious of and understanding and using this knowledge is a significant adjunct for our compositions by knowing how our viewers visual stimuli will translate these.

Developing from a compositional and an artistic standpoint, the near instant recognition process from optical stimulus registers the first impact a viewer derives from your artwork.

As an artist, you create such that the stimulus a viewer has initially is maintained longer allowing more emotional attachment to the artwork along with sensing other aesthetic attributes imbued in the work.

While this provides some backbone to our art, it is just a higher level understanding that provides foundational awareness with a potential for creating exceptional art.

“All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.” ~ Elliott Erwitt

This is the beginning of a series of blogs refining the development of artistic creativity.

Future insights will evolve the understanding of:

A) Our intended message
B) Message elements
C) Intended visual impact
D) Areas of expressive power
E) Choices and their impacts
F) Characteristics of visual messages
G) What are symbols and how to effectively use these
H) Representations
I) Abstractions
J) Our world of perceptions
K) The meanings of our messages – Ours and our viewers
L) Compositional interpretations
M) Duplex Priorities
N) Combining visual techniques
O) And so MUCH MORE…

Our art develops our chosen subject matter and intends to invoke emotions, passions and feelings as well as our proposed message. Understanding the mosaic of developing this mental “palette”, we can begin to further ourselves in art creation.

This, in conjunction with building awareness of creativity and allowing these passions the freedom necessary to flourish, establish us on a pathway towards satisfying and enhancing our artistic development.

Back Soon,


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