(Editor’s note: Award-winning Galveston artist Leroy LeFlore works in oil, watercolor, and pen-and-ink. He is a member of the Galveston Art League and exhibits at its gallery, 2117A Postoffice St. in Galveston, as well as at the Sunflower Bakery & Café, 14th Street at Postoffice. His website, www.LeroyLeFlore.com, shows his portfolio.)
The human eye, in coordination with the human mind, seeks to make sense of the patterns seen. This explains the fascination of a rock formation that perhaps resembles the profile of Abraham Lincoln, or the profile of an island on the horizon that resembles a reclining woman, or why we impulsively interpret the shape of clouds into two Victorian ladies at tea.
Without this well-developed ability, none of us could ever make any sense of any painting. But instead, we can be fooled into believing that on a two dimensional surface, we can see distance, we can see three dimensions. A pattern of colors laid on just so resembles a sky, a field of trees, a person we readily recognize, or invoke a memory, or an emotion, or touch us to our very core. Recognizing this, artists create visual patterns with the express purpose of invoking a certain impression on the observer.
But often, instead of evoking the impression intended, the eye-to-mind coordination of said observer sees something else.
Case in point: I did a painting recently of a tree beside a receding highway. I showed this to my 5-year-old granddaughter and she saw a prop for the tree, not a receding highway. Now that it was pointed out to me, that’s what I forever saw, too. So I had to correct my visual delusion.
Last year I completed a large painting of an overcast, moody day at the beach, all gray and subdued colors with an interesting perspective. I intended it to provoke a quiet, thoughtful mood to come over the observer, just the same mood that would come over one who would be standing on that beach. I thought it was a good painting.
This painting was on display for sale for close to a year before I was contacted by a prospective buyer. He liked the painting but there was one thing that bothered him about it. It seems that the driftwood log I had painted washed up on the beach in the middle ground resembled an alligator. Would it be too much to ask if I could alter it to not resemble an alligator?
I never saw it as an alligator before and I wasn’t sure if I saw one now. I showed it to the only honest art critic I know ― my wife ― and explained to her how it maybe could resemble an alligator with the head at this end and the tail at that end. She said she thought it could resemble an alligator too but she had the ends reversed from what I saw.
Oh yes, sometimes that eye to mind interpretation of patterns does get convoluted! So I go to alter it, and with every alteration my mind was interpreting an undesirable pattern. First it looked like a walrus, then a washed-up human corpse, then it didn’t look like anything at all, at least not like a driftwood log washed up on the beach.
Finally, I arrived at something that I thought might work.
And apparently it did because the prospective buyer became a buyer in reality.