Looking; then looking again

One of the things that I like most about painting impressions is that the same subject can leave you with a different impression each time you view it. To me, an impression is what is left behind in your mind’s eye after having viewed the subject, often only for a brief moment. If you look, you gain an impression; look again, and sometimes you’ll gain a different one.

I have found that this is particularly the case for landscapes, as so much of the subject is affected by the time of day, the weather, and the season. (If you were curious about my recent obsession with landscapes, this has a lot to do with it!)

Of course, it’s unsurprising that one’s impression of a place, or person, or thing would change if the place, person, or thing itself had noticeably changed anyway. That’s more or less the experience of looking at a different thing for the first time. Just looking – not looking again. Sometimes, though, it’s not the subject that has changed, but the mindset of the viewer.

It seems to me that impressions are partly made up of the subject’s characteristics, and how you interpret them, but also partly of your own expectations about what you’re going to see. Recall the case of the moody hedgehog, and how my fellow Etsy seller changed what I expected to see what I looked at my own work. My expectations informed my interpretation, which informed my impression of the image in front of me.

What’s more interesting still, is that this kind of expectation isn’t always conscious. We probably all have countless subconscious biases that inform how we interpret the world, but I think when we continue to engage with a wide range of subjects we allow these subconscious expectations to be influenced and altered. And that, to me, makes the process of looking all the more fascinating.

 

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