A Spooky Thing Happened In The Studio Today

Spooky things sometimes happen while painting

Every once in awhile, spooky stuff happens while creating a piece of art. I’ve had drawings in the past that would contain a full portrait in the background of somebody I never intended to draw. This happened in college and scared my roommate so bad that she never really got over it! (Still makes me laugh.)

Today I was staining a canvas and noticed a face appearing right before I wiped it down.

painting today in the studio

Is it Donald Trump or my mind playing tricks?

It wasn’t just me!

I posted this image on Instagram and an artist friend of mine, Stephen Holding, had the exact same thing happen to him yesterday. Double spooky if you ask me!

Could we be suffering from Pareidolia?


Pareidolia (/pærˈdliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə)

A psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus (an image or a sound) by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists.

Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the man in the moon, the moon rabbit, hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans.

Can you see it?

Below is the satellite photo of the “Face on Mars” that has sparked a lot of speculation about life on the Martian planet.

Martian Face Viking

But there are plenty examples of pareidolia in every day life:

Man in the moon: Sometimes I see it. Sometimes I don’t.

man in the moon

Eye spots on moths: Said to ward off predators – pretty cool but may be spooky to the right animal.

eye spots on moths spooky

Sidewalk smileys: Well, maybe he’s not smiling.

concrete smiley face

It’s not so spooky after all

The list facial features in everyday objects can go on an on. You hear stories on the news about people seeing Jesus or the Virgin Mary on toast, a pancake or the side of a building.

This article on the neuroscience of pareidolia from the BBC explains the phenomenon in greater detail and gives even more examples.

Pareidolia has been an inspiration for artists

Leonardo DaVinci once wrote in his notes:

If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills…


Image capture from an interactive “Rorschachoscope” project by zeh fernando

Nix the “naysayers” and say YES to your imagination

While science says Pareidolia is merely the result of seeing patterns in random information, I say that is rationalization trying to take all the fun out of the simple things in life. Rationalizing every single thing away leads to a fixed mindset and crushes creativity.

If you see a smiley face looking back at you the next time you plug in your hairdryer, take it as a good sign and allow it to spark your imagination.

Sorry, I won’t be selling this as a vision of Donald Trump on Ebay

While many have sold their “Mother Teresa cinnamon rolls” or “Virgin Mary potato chips” for big bucks, this little canvas has a much loftier purpose and has already moved on to becoming a portrait of a beloved pet named Chewy.

I’ll keep you posted on the progression of Chewy as I move forward. Until then, make sure to look and find inspiration in everything around you.


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