Key Concepts 3

Drawing thy self without a mirror: What art can tell us about the human mind.

Egocentric perspective = In regards to art, it is the premise of drawing exactly what you see, including your own body as you are drawing.

We see the world from a particular point of view. We are aware of our own bodies, we see them constantly. However in terms of art we avoid including ourselves as the ‘artist’ within the work.

Visual Field = The entire area that can be seen when the eye is directed forward, including that which is seen with peripheral vision.

Binocular vision = Vision using two eyes with overlapping fields of view, allowing good perception of depth


If you ware glasses they will be in your visual field, you can see them on your face. We can also see our nose. However if we were to draw a still life we would not consider paining our own nose as part of what we are looking at.

‘The physical world is utterly different from the mental world. We have direct contract with the physical world through our senses. But the mental world is private to each one of us. How can such a world be studied?’ (p.16-17) – Chris Firth

There is no way of knowing that we all see the same thing. Using colour as an example, what I perceive to be blue, could be someone else red.

‘I look at a tree in the garden, I don’t have the tree in my mind. What I have in my mind is a model (or representation) of the tree constructed by my brain.’ (p.170) – Chris Frith

(Frith, C.D. (2007) Making up the mind: How the brain creates our mental world. 9th edn. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell (an imprint of John Wiley & Sons Ltd).)

What we see is a reproduction of what is in front of us. Just like when a camera takes a photo, we know a photo is not the object, it is an image of the object. The image we see has been captured by our eyes; then made sense by our brain.

MindBodyWorld : According to Chris Frith all of these things are separate.


Above is a woodcut designed by scientist Ernest Mach, showing the egocentric perspective (through just his left eye).

Ernest Mach combines the mind & body, saying that they are connected.

Some Swedish philosophers have done research into how ‘Body ownership affects visual perception of object size by rescaling the visual representation of external space’. (This is the title of their paper.)

‘…we used a full-body illusion to show that objects appear larger and farther away when participants experience a small artificial body as their own and that objects appear smaller and closer when they assume ownership of a large artificial body’

‘Our results demonstrate that the feeling of ownership of an artificial body can alter the perceived sizes of objects without the need for a visible body.’

van der Hoort, B. and Ehrsson, H.H. (2014) ‘Body ownership affects visual perception of object size by rescaling the visual representation of external space’, Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76(5), pp. 1414–1428. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0664-9.

Our bodies are a reference point for or perceptions of distance and scale. Why then do we leave them out of art?

Within art egocentric perspective is avoided. However there are a few possible examples of it.


This is a Willendorf figure. This could be one of the earliest examples of egocentric perspective. Due to the short plump nature of these figures it is believed that these sculptures were made from the point of view of a pregnant woman, looking down at her stomach.preggo-venus.png

Of course there were no mirrors when theses sculptures would have been made, so this would have been the only perspective you would have been able to see your own body in.

Even Walters was a welsh banter who also explored egocentric perspective. He was specifically interested in double vision. How if you focus on an object it appears ‘solid’, and conciquently surrounding objects are seen in double vision. Is aim was to paint exactly what he saw.

(c) Mrs Jennie Migallon; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundationfig4walters


Frida Kahlo ‘What the water gave me’ 1938



Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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