Painters: Master of Illusion

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Trickery or Beauty, Art Fools the Brain

How many faces do you see in this painting? Are you in the 10% who get it right?The General's Family by Octavio Ocampo

The General’s Family by Octavio Ocampo

Artists have long sought to fool the viewer–and succeeded. Not sure you believe this claim? Well consider that most painters are painting on a 2 dimensional surface and yet they are attempting to render a 3 dimensional image.

Throughout the history of art, the painter has sought to stimulate the brain and to have the viewer recognize his creation as being the same as, or at least representing, the original item that inspired his painting.

Artists sought ways to improve their skill at telling the story and making their images more realistic. From the camera obscura to learn about perspective and the golden ratio, artists have sought to make us believe their images more believable. In essence to fool our brains into believing we are there, rather than looking at a painting.

Some artists employ the trompe l’oeil technique in an effort to trick our brains with their painting illusions.

Other artists prefer a more surrealistic approach. Our thinking brain doesn’t believe that we are in the scene, but the juxtaposition of real and strange imagery can cause confusion in the human brain.

Our brains are incredible. They can process huge amounts of data. Some of that is done consciously, but most is done at a subconscious level. Your brain is collecting data from all around you and you are not even aware of it.

Artists like to fool the brain–and some purposefully take advantage of the subconscious workings of our minds in order to do so. They know that we often see things on a superficial level. It is a time saver and brain saver. These artists will add more information into the painting than we will at first see.

That is why with these optical illusions in paint are so amazing. The General’s Family by Octavio Ocampo, pictured above is an example of how successfully our brains can be fooled.

Optical illusions take advantage of the way in which our brain works with our eyes to see the world, making you think you see “X” when in fact you’re looking at “Y”. Other illusions simply require a shift of perspective to see an alternative image. The great thing about illusions is that we’re wired to enjoy them – our brains have evolved to enjoy new or surprising experiences, because it’s an opportunity to learn something!
Look again at “The General’s Family.” At face value (sorry, couldn’t resist) it appears to be a profile of the general. But looking closely you will see more and more faces. It is the combination of the faces the tells the whole story.
So, look again…how many faces did you see? I’ll let you in on the secret in a little bit…but resist the urge to cheat by scrolling down!
Octavio Ocampo builds his paintings in the metamorphic style, meaning he paints smaller images in a way that our brain will combine them into a larger one.
Octavio Ocampo

Okay…drum roll…the total number of faces in the painting is 9. No, that doesn’t include the dog, birds or any other non-human faces. So if you didn’t get that magic number don’t feel bad–only 10% of viewers do without a little help.

Before we show you the key, here’s the story behind the faces:

The first, and largest face shows the man in his old age. The dog laying down forms his hand resting on one flap of his jacket. By the man’s ear you’ll see a woman holding a baby – opposite her is an old man holding a cane. This represents the humble beginnings of the general. To the right is the face of a woman, which represents the man’s wife.

On the left side, where the crow is perched, we can see four faces. These perhaps represent the man’s children.

The General's Family by Octavio Ocampo, the results

How Were YOUR Powers of Observation?

Did you find 6? Then your powers of observation are average.

If you found less than six, you might want to slow down a bit and pay more attention.

If you found all 9, then consider yourself among the most observant, congrats!


Read the original story on Wimp.com.

All artwork is copyright Octavio Ocampo

Ocampo is represented in the US by Visions Fine Art

You can see more of Ocampo’s amazing paintings on the Visions Fine Art site here.

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