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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 Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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