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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the cognitive correlates of artistic practice using a parameterized non-photorealistic toolkit DiPaola, Stephen


Artists and scientists have different approaches to knowledge acquisition, usage and dissemination. This research work is one attempt to bridge these different fields, through a multi-stage process involving the creation of a software toolkit for non-photorealistic rendering (NPR). Our domain of inquiry is the creation and viewing of fine art painting -- we are interested in elucidating cognitive and perceptual mechanisms or ‘cognitive correlates’ which correspond and relate to artists’ techniques and conceptions regarding fine art painting in general and portraiture in particular. As our starting point, we analyse an extensive corpus of art-theory literature to identify broadly accepted understandings and techniques, which might be relevant to human perception and cognition. We further condense this artistic knowledge into a concise set of heuristics, which are suitable for parameterization and algorithmic implementation, and examine findings from psychology and neuroscience, which correlate to each heuristic. We present our system design for a painterly NPR toolkit, which is informed by these heuristics within a suitable object-oriented, cognitively inspired architecture. By interpreting artistic and cognitive science knowledge into a well-defined computational framework, we gain opportunities to formalize and test new hypotheses. We demonstrate the productive power of such an approach by examining in depth two particular techniques (lost-and-found edges and varying fine detail level) used by a particular artist (Rembrandt). We formulate four experiments based on eye tracking of human viewers, using our painterly NPR toolkit to generate example artworks with manipulated generation parameters. We obtain significant findings suggesting that artists such as Rembrandt use techniques, which leverage perceptual and cognitive function to exert control over viewer’s gaze patterns, which in turn influences the experienced artistic merit of a painting.

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