In Snow White, the step-mother was green with envy at seeing the beauty of her step daughter. She couldn’t handle being the second to her, as for her, life was a beauty contest, and she needed to stay number one. When Snow White blossomed into a beautiful girl, she became jealous, but didn’t react. When the mirror pronounced Snow White as the most beautiful girl in the land, the queen plotted her murder.
Although everything worked out in the end, the message of the store was clear. Vanity is not a good trait to have, yet people these days are transfixed at beautifying themselves to feed their vanity. Vanity was the inspiration behind the late Charles Allan Gilbert’s illusion called “All is Vanity.”
The Inspiration behind “All is Vanity” Illusion
Charles Allen Gilbert was born on September 3, 1873 and passed away on April 20, 1929. He lived a prosperous life where his work was often used as an example to show people the art of creating illusions. One of his widely praised illusion is “All is Vanity.” The idea to create the illusion after he began to read the biblical verse, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” which refers to the pride and vanity of a man.
However, in the world of art, vanity refers to women preoccupied with preserving her beauty. After reading the biblical verse and taking into account art’s representation of a woman, he created the “All is Vanity” illusion.
What is the “All is Vanity” Illusion?
The “All is Vanity” illusion features a woman sitting behind a vanity mirror looking at her image, but there is more to the picture than just a woman and her vanity mirror. The artist drew a human skull, which serves as the focal point to place the vanity mirror in.
The skull in the picture represents the phrase “remember you will die,” reminding people that no one lives forever. The concept of the illusion is quite scary, as it sends a message to people that vanity shouldn’t be relegated as the most important thing in your life, as in the end, everyone looks the same — the skull.
The message of the illusion really spoke to people and was published in magazines, newspapers, and everywhere on the internet. Even today, the illusion resonates with people, reminding them of how vanity and pride are two traits that are still very much alive in today’s modern culture.
With the invention of Photoshop, camera filters, and apps that make you look beautiful by erasing all your perfections are readily downloaded. Most people are still occupied about taking the perfect “selfie” for instance, whereas magazines retouch pictures of celebrities to enhance their beauty. Instead, people shouldn’t be too concerned about perfecting their outside, but should try to perfect their inner beauty. So, the message behind Charles Allen Gilbert illusion called “All is Vanity” falls upon deaf ears, as it’s admired for its beauty and not its message.
You may also be interested to see our Tom French gallery. Tom's work includes lots of Skull illusions.
© opticalspy 2015
Optical illusions, one of mankind’s gifts to us, dates back to the 5th century B.C. It was a time of discovery where the surroundings where still viewed as a mystery, waiting to be solved. One mystery was of the unexplainable optical illusions that existed during that time. Epicharmus, a Greek philosopher, was the first one to provide an answer for it.
Epicharmus explained how our sensory organs are responsible for the deception, which caused people to see more than just an ordinary picture. Later, Protagoras, another Greek philosopher, drew his own conclusions, coming up with an entirely new reasoning on the matter. Protagoras blamed the environment for the distorted view and not the senses.
With two starkly different views deduced by that century’s most acclaimed philosophers, people did not know whose explanation to believe. Now, it was up to Aristotle, a notable Greek philosopher, to assess both deductions and decide on the most plausible answer.
Aristotle’s View of the Different Theories
However, Aristotle was just as confused as everyone else, as he believed that both philosophers were right, but to a certain degree. He agreed with Protagoras’s assumption that people need to rely on their senses to receive a correct image of reality. Later, he added that people’s five senses could easily be fooled into believing something that wasn’t there.
Still, the concept of optical illusions wasn’t clear and the debate on them continued. Several different researchers and philosophers began to ponder over the answer to the mystery of optical illusions. One of the philosophers that became fascinated with optical illusion was Plato.
Plato, a Greek philosopher, said that the trickery and the reality of the optical illusions were due to both the mind and the senses. Since then, other notable personalities studied the mystery behind the optical illusion. They are:
1. Johannes Mueller and J.J. Oppel
Psychologists In the 19th century, Muller and Oppel performed various studies related to finding out of how people perceive optical illusions. They published several articles and wrote numerous books, which reignited people’s interest in optical illusions. Both of them proposed twelve theories, explaining the unexplainable phenomenon.
2. Hermann von Helmholtz
German Physicist In the 19th century, Hermann von Helmholtz provided people with the concept of cognitive illusion. He was in agreement with Protagoras, as according to him, the assumptions people hold about their environment as a whole trigger cognitive illusion. For instance, the Café Wall illusion is an example of cognitive illusion.
3. W.E. Hill, Illustrator In 1915
W.E. Hill developed a cartoon of a young and an old woman merged together. Some people saw an old woman whereas others saw a young woman. The explanation of how this optical illusion was created was due to individual perceptions of it.
4. The Rise of Op Art
In the 60s, artists such as Vasarely and Bridget Riley developed an interest in Op Art, painting abstract images. They painted vibrations, hidden images, flashing, and other abstract patterns.
Optical illusions have an illustrious history that begun with the Greek philosophers and made a lasting impression on painters, psychologists, illustrators, researchers, and us.
© opticalspy 2015
Warning - This image might make observers feel sick
Rotating Snakes - Akiyoshi Kitaoka - Shown with permission
By now, everyone should know what the “Rotating Illusion” is, and who was the illusionist behind the worldwide phenomenon. For those who do not know the famed illusionist that created this magnificent and dizzying illusion, we will begin by briefly introducing him. When you talk about Akiyoshi Kitaoka, his list of accomplishments is the first thing that stands out. In fact, his accomplishments are nothing less of amazing and include:
From all of his numerous accomplishments, the achievement that earned him worldwide renown was the creation of the “Rotating Snakes” illusion. Do you ever wonder how he came upon this illusion? What was his thought process? What was he thinking when he began to experiment with visual illusions?
Most likely, just like everyone else, you were too captivated and engrossed in the illusion that such a thought might have not occurred to you. However, it occurred to us and we bet to a select few other individuals that wanted to gain an insight on how the “Rotating Snakes” illusion came about.
The Making of the “Rotating Snakes” Illusion
It took Akiyoshi Kitaoka two years to figure out what he had created. The story of his discovery goes something like this. It was the year 1999 and Kitaoka was occupied in trying to figure out how to usher in the Chinese New Year. On that day, he was trying to come up with a card design, using rabbits, as it was the year of the rabbits.
That year, he had immersed himself in books, studies, and research papers all related to spiral illusions. Naturally, he wanted to create a greeting card, using spiral illusions as his basis for the cover design. He drew rabbits in a spiral pattern, naming it “U-zu.” In “U-zu,” “U” means rabbit, “zu” means image, and together the word stands for spiral. Surprisingly, he was oblivious to what he had created that day, until it dawned on him in 2002.
The Light Bulb Moment
In December 2002, he published the book “Trick Eyes,” and included the rabbit spiral in it. His illusion gained instant popularity amongst the masses, but Kitaoka thought he could create a more impactful illusion, which is what he did in 2003. He drew the “Rotating Snakes,” and it broke the internet. It became one of the most talked about illusions, gaining worldwide exposure.
Now, Kitaoka wants people to attempt drawing their own spiral illusions. Even if the illusion doesn’t look anywhere close to the “Rotating Snakes,” he says that people should enjoy creating spiral illusions and not worry about the imperfections.
© opticalspy 2015
Steve Simpson fell upon an illusion while dining in a café in Bristol in 1973. He reported his findings to his senior, Richard Gregory, a British psychologist who named it, The Café Wall Illusion. However, unbeknownst to him, he wasn’t the first person to come across this illusion. Years before, this illusion was called the Kindergarten Illusion, but the “how” behind it was still undiscovered, until Gregory decided to dissect it and get to the root of it.
Deconstructing the Café Wall Illusion
The optical illusion fascinated Gregory because its peculiar placement of the brick and mortar caught his attention. Each brick was surrounded by a section of mortar, transitional between the light and dark colors of the bricks. When the bricks are equalized by half a width, the horizontal bricks look as if they are slanting diagonally. Fortunately, for him, his first attempt at breaking apart the illusion proved quite successful.
In his analysis, he said that the illusionary effect was created due to the position of the bricks, thickness, and the color of the grout lines between them. If someone was to erase the grout lines, the illusion of the diagonal lines will no longer appear.
He further explained the reason why humans perceived the parallel lines as diagonal, stating the reason as being the way the neurons interact in the brain. The neurons are tricked into thinking the lines are sloping due to the dark and light colors of the grout lines, which the neurons perceive as either dimmed or brightened. Others followed suit and began to analyze the illusion to come up with their own answers. Their observations gave rise to numerous laws.
The Laws of the Café Wall Illusion
Here are some of the laws that came about after this illusion was re-discovered:
The border-locking theory applies to the mediums television and printing. The theory states that it’s difficult to obtain the exact spatial registration at the borders where colors and light should contrast and come together without overlaps and gaps. For this reason, people state that the Café Wall Illusion’s numerous laws are describing the border-locking theory.
The Café Wall Illusion is intriguing and complicated to understand, but when you view it, a sense of blurriness ensues, as your brain will try to interpret the diagonal lines when in fact, they are parallel to each other.
© opticalspy 2015
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