I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for when I decided to read this book, it was one tough read – felt like I was trying to sprint through mud. Don’t get me wrong – it was a good read, packed with relevant information that artists can use in the technical aspects of their painting. This was a science/analytical discussion about the biology of the human eye and relationship to art – I admittedly got lost a few times, but after re-reading certain sections I’ve started to understand and appreciate the fascinating correlations that Ms. Livingstone made in her studies. I’m hopeful that over time I will be able to use some of the finer points in future paintings.
Per Margaret Livingston’s preface, “I am a Neurophysiologist who spend my time investigating why some nerve cells in our visual systems are sensitive to color whereas others are not. In the process I have become particularly interested in something that artists have been aware of for a very long time: that color and luminance (or lightness) carry different kinds of visual information.”
David Hubel, a colleague of Ms. Livingston, wrote the foreword, in it he states . . . “the book makes the point that art depends ultimately on our brains and that by understanding what goes on in our brains when we look at a work of art we can hope to deepen our appreciation of both art and the science.”
Look did the book get a little deep in places? Yes and I won’t revisit those areas, but overall it was a good dissection of the eye and how we see art. Margaret Livingstone provides a good discussion around the biology of the eye, light, color vision, luminance and night vision, stages of processing color and luminance, six clues to spatial relationship among objects, and finally color mixing.
Some of the techniques mentioned I use in my paintings; I’ve been learning the how, but I haven’t understood the “why’s.” As an artist – for me, this is a very big deal.
My goal is to achieve new levels in my art. I hope to accomplish this through learning new mediums, color, techniques, or understanding how science and outside influences can and do impact how/what we see and our experiences in looking at art . . . this book filled in the science connection for that last aspect. I’ll go back and reread sections for a deeper understanding, because this book is helping to satisfy the analytical nature of my personality that wants to understand what happens when we look at art and how can I take advantage of that in my paintings.
Reading this book has been a time commitment on my part, but never worry there is a new painting in the works called, “Fall Reflections” that will be completed in the next day or two.
Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing can be found on Amazon.