Art for Life

This is the Blog for, the official website of Delaware artist Michael J. Riley.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Artists and Perception

Un-Common Design

by Delaware Michael J. Riley -

Artists, by nature, are adventurous and sensitive individuals. Many folks may wonder why artists are that way. One possible reason for many artists’ adventurism and hypersensitivity could be that they are designed to rely heavily upon their sense of perception.

By design, artists are charged with the task of transforming raw emotions and ideas from an abstract realm into something the world can see, hear, smell, taste or feel. In other words, one might say that artists possess a sixth sense that is used to appeal to the other five senses.

Let us examine this theory for a moment. In grade school, we are taught that, as human beings, we possess only five senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste and feel. This is an established position and a presumed fact. However, it may not apply to artists, designers, musicians, etc.

How can an artist’s or designer's perception be construed as a sixth sense?

An individual utilizing his senses in a normal fashion operates from a literal standpoint, while an artist operates from a more figurative one.


The gift of music – A rainy day

To an individual utilizing only common sense, hearing drops of rain landing on his rooftop tells him that it is raining outside and his mind then focuses on taking a simple course of action. He thinks, “Don’t go outside,” or “Take an umbrella with you.”

The same instance of falling rain, when heard by a person possessing the gift of music, might inspire him to write a symphony based on the rhythm produced by various intervals of the drops of rain.

The gift of Vision (not sight) – Colors on a wall

To an individual utilizing common perception, seeing colors on a wall tells him that the walls in a room are painted yellow. He might like the colors and go out and by a sofa to compliment the brilliant colors on the wall.

An artist or designer selects and uses colors to inspire or solicit an emotion or to create a particular mood. To a visual artist or graphic designer, the walls of the room are not simply painted yellow. They are upbeat, they are visitor-friendly and they are warm. That is how an artist communicates his interpretation of a sunny day without spelling it out.


The next time an artist or other creative individual is called “flighty” or is told that he lacks common sense; he can take it as a compliment. The fact is that he does not lack common sense. By design, he possesses un-common sense. He is not “flighty.” He is using his artistic gift to reach into the atmosphere and transform raw emotions and ideas from an abstract realm into reality.

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