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Testing Memory By Drawing Milhouse Van Houten

Illustrator Kieran Gabriel loves The Simpsons, so he's asking friends, peers, and Internet strangers to draw Milhouse Van Houten from memory. Without the help of any reference, artists are expected to recreate the pop icon using only the image they see in their head. The results will appear in the new book, Milhouse From Memory.

Submissions are still being accepted, but you can see a few examples that other illustrators did:

Not to be left out, I decided to try one too. I'm not submitting it officially, so I broke the rules and colored it with the highlighters in my office:

Milhouse has a pretty simple design with some very distinct features, but a lot of the artists made crucial mistakes (not to mention the one guy who didn't even know what a Milhouse was). While everyone can remember the glasses and signature eyebrows, the facial structure and proportions are way off. Often the artists will insert their own artistic styles into the drawing in place of the iconic Simpsons house style. The essence is there, but there's something wrong. So what's going on with these?

Various studies have shown that we don't see as much as we think we do. We often only pay attention to what's important, so things we aren't necessarily focusing on can go unnoticed (this video is a good illustration). Known as selective attention, people miss stimuli when they are focused on something else. In the case of Milhouse, it's possible that we notice the distinctive features but we don't pay attention to the nitty-gritty.

Another example had researchers approach strangers on the street and ask for directions. As the stranger relayed the directions, movers with a door would come in between the pair. While the view was obstructed, a new researcher would replace the old one. Surprisingly, 50% of the test subjects did not notice a change of person when the door moved away, likely because they were focused on the task at hand: the directions.

Another theory is that we experience "attentional saturation," which is the result of the brain ignoring ubiquitous things because it encounters them so often. A recent study at UCLA explored the phenomenon by asking students (mostly Apple users) to draw the Apple logo. Despite the ubiquity of the bitten apple, most subjects had trouble drawing it. Often, the students would draw extra stems or put the bite in the wrong place. The students see the logo so often, researchers believe, that their brains have learned to ignore it.

Our inability to draw cartoon characters without a reference could be because we aren't scrutinizing the shapes while we watch television. We're likely focused on the plot and jokes, instead of how each object is drawn. We may have the memory of what something looks like, but we don't have the memory of how to reconstruct it.

That said, this doesn't mean you don't remember what Milhouse looks like. You can test your skill and submit your attempt here. The book goes out in May, so you better draw quickly!

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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