Painting from life or more broadly, observational depiction, is arguably a form of quintessentially representational art. Is it on the cusp of revival in form and prestige or becoming a genre for cultural preservation? In this talk, I will examine some of the innovative approaches to figurative observational painting since the rise of the impressionism and try to discover their underlying intuitions on how visual perception relates to observational depiction. I suggest that those intuitions or naïve theories held by the artists fall into a meta-theoretical space of three attractors—–the distal (the world), the proximal (veridical sensations), and the affect that compete for selective attention or mental sources from the artist. I argue that innovative and appealing observational paintings have been, and will remain, contingent on generating tensions and finding balances in the tri-poled mete-theoretical space.
Dr. Lou is a psychologist of vision perception and a self-taught representational artist. He holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Science, and a PhD in cognitive psychology from University of California, San Diego. Lou has published several papers on how voluntary attention affects sensory and perceptual processes and related issues in premier psychological journals before starting to pursue a rekindled love for drawing and painting. His charcoal drawings and oil paintings have been exhibited in several regional art exhibitions since 2012. To meet the challenges in creating both illusionist and emotionally authentic pictorial representations, Lou developed a strong interest in understanding the perceptual processes and mechanisms involved in observational drawing and painting. In the 2018 theoretical review titled “Artists’ Innocent Eye as Extended Proximal Mode of Vision” published in the journal “Art & Perception,” he proposed a new theoretical framework that integrates artists’ intuitions on “innocent eyes” and modern vision science for understanding the nature and development of artists’ perceptual expertise in observational drawing and painting.