ARTicles: “How Artists See”

Sadie F. Dingfelder

Ever felt frustrated that your drawing of a hat is a hat…but, not the hat in the still life in front of you? The person you drew does look like a person, but not necessarily the person you intended to draw? It’s missing something.

Good news! Evolutionarily speaking, your brain is doing exactly what it should be doing.  It is filling in gaps for you, making your hat look like a stereotypical hat rather than the hat in front of you. Better news! You can train yourself to see things as they really are by taking art classes and learning how to see things as they really are. Check out this page for our drawing and painting classes.  

Bonus: Ever wonder why artists sometimes squint or close one eye when they are drawing?  The answer is here, along with an in depth look at how artists see.


“Can you sketch a landscape, or even a convincing piece of fruit? If not, chances are that your brain is getting in the way, says painting teacher and landscape artist David Dunlop.

“People don’t see like a camera,” he says. “We go through life anticipating what we are going to see and miss things — which is why so many wedding invitations go out with the wrong date.”

In his art classes, one of the first things Dunlop tells students is to stop identifying objects and instead see scenes as collections of lines, shadows, shapes and contours. Almost instantly, students sketches look more realistic and three-dimensional.”