Perceiving recognizable image in random shapes of clouds, stains on a wall, knots on a tree trunk or other such unusual places is a creative vision which all of us possess. This phenomenon is called Pareidolia by the psychologists, wherein the mind perceives a familiar image of something where none actually exists. However an artist would rather not term it as a phenomenon, it’s an ‘Experience’ of a ‘Happy Fluke of Art’.
(Left) The popular Elephant Rock on Heimaey, Iceland, (Right) Cloud formation in shape of a man
The creative genius, Leonardo da Vinci advised artists to use this experience as a means to stimulate creativity and generate original ideas, he wrote- “if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see diver’s combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”
Extract from Leonardo da Vinci’s Note book
Leonardo da Vinci’s technique is just right for an artist with creative block, the experience stimulates the creative imagination, starting off a ripple effect of innovative ideas. The artistic vision expands and starts seeking out fresh ideas, the mind is nourished with visual suggestions and creative interpretation.
Artists like Giuseppe Arcimboldo and Dali have used this concept to their advantage in a clever and unique manner. Arcimboldo created a number of portraits of people by painting an assemblage of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, books and more, the objects typically had some connection to the person’s/subjects life or depiction.
(Left) The Librarian, (Right) The Jurist
(Left) Rudolf II, painted as Roman God of the seasons, (Right) Winter
Shown below is the painting made by Salvador Dali who was highly inspired by Arcimboldo’s technique. In the artwork titled- Swans Reflecting Elephants, he uses visual illusions to depict the Double Image Experience/Pareidolia. Here, the three swans in front of bleak, leafless trees are reflected in the lake, the swans’ necks become the elephants’ trunks and the trees become the legs of the elephants.
Dali’s painting shown below- depicts a group of African tribal women with a landscape and a hut-like shelter in the background. If seen from a distance, it looks like a face lying on its side.
Below is the black and white photograph of an African village that inspired Dali to make the painting (Shown Above).
Another interesting example of ‘Accidental Art’ is this artwork of ink and gouache. On casual blotches of ink, Dali recognized a depiction of a man in Renaissance garb serving wine to another, he wittily filled in few gaps to make it more identifiable and concrete.
In our childhood days, at some point or the other we have all played this game of spotting arbitrary shapes of animals or faces in bizarre places, most commonly in clouds. As adults, we tend to lose that imagination, even so we should continue this practice of cultivating our creativity, enjoying such experiences and sharing the joy with others.
(Left) The Ballet Tree, (Right) The famous profile of Stac Levenish island -Scotland
Saltwork formation in the shape of elephant (Algeria)
The rightmost cloud formation appears to be a bear, surprising the left cloud which can appear as a pig.
Image Author’s – Diego Delso and Subber culture, Stephen Hodges, Patrick Gruban and Danamania