Feb 6, 2011

Fairies and Dwarves and Cheese Breathing Monsters

Well  as soon as I read this weeks Illustration Friday prompt "Reversal", my mind (of course)  immediately jumped to the concept of Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency.

And I can understand that most people probably thought of the same thing - so if I visit a dozen other blogs and find that most artists have illustrated Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency for their IF topic - then I won't be in the  least offended - dissapointed, but not offended.

Of course I, like most people,  jumped on the concept of CFFF (the standard abbreviation for Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency) to illustrate "Reversal" because CFFF is one of the adaptations that humans have developed to help us survive in the wild.

More specifically, CFFF not only helps us catch things like rabbits and worms - it stops us being eaten.

But how does it do that? (You see, even though I don't have a spell checker and can't type for chips, I try to end each paragraph with a question to encourage you to keep reading).

To be honest, now we are halfway into this post, I should also admit  that  CFFF does not only stop you getting eaten - you can also use it as a conversation filler. Just like I am now.

You see, CFFF, like lots of other seemingly boring concepts, has more than one use.

For example: in the middle of your next dinner party when there is one of those embaressing lulls in the conversation where every one suddenly stops talking at the same time, and then stares vacuously into the billowing convection current depths of their Salmon Soup waiting for someone else to take up the metaphorical conversational ball .... well with the concept of  Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency firmly under your belt, that person who takes up the ball can be you.

No questions asked.

So it doesn't matter which one of your dinner guests has been discovered having an affair with another dinner guest's wife, daughter, mother-in-law etc, you'll soon have them transfixed with spondules of giggleing joyful gaggling laughter once you introduce them to the miraculous concept of CFFF.

But why is CFFF so interesting, and how, exactly, does it stop you getting eaten?

CFFF  is all about the human eye, which is why it's so important for artists, hunters and human beings in general. (Next week I'll give you Mach bands and the concept of temporal and spatial summation to jolly your guests with.)

 So if your mind has already started to wander, it's now time to pay attention.

You see, in the human eye there are basically two types of photoreceptors - rods and cones.  Though rods are great for vison in low light, you can't see colour with them and they have lower resolution than the cones.

Cones are great for detail. You use the cones of your eye in the centre of your  vision so you can read, watch television, or spy on your neighbours' teenage pot smoking children.

On the other hand you use the rods for your periphereal vision.

And that's where CFFF comes in.

Basically Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency is (from Wiki) : "the frequency at which an intermittent light stimulus appears to be completely steady to the observer. Flicker fusion threshold is related to persistence of vision."

So....  have you ever noticed that a flourescent light will flicker in the corner of your eye and drive you nuts? Or the same with old fashioned Televisions?

But when you look at it directly, there is no flicker at all?

Well that's because of the CFFF! How exciting is that eh?

Well, it even gets better.

The reason you see the flicker in the corner of your eye and not in the centre is because the CFFF in your peripheral vision is lower than your central vision. That means you need a higher frame rate (flicker rate) for the light to be seen as non flickering in your peripheral vision.

So although the rods in this area are low resolution, they make up for this by being able to see movement much better than the central of your vision. They will pick up a quick movement in your side vison because of their higher CFFF (or was it their lower CFFF?).

Now isn't that wonderful? Can you picture in your minds eye your otherwise moribund dinner  guests wriggling with excitement over their lime sorbets as you regail them with this titbit of data!

But wait. There's more!

So why is a higher peripheral CFFF a handy thing?

Well, basically it means that you can see a small movement out of the corner of your eye.

That means  CFFF helps you see small edible animals (worms, rabbits, guinea pigs, dragon flies) when they are not directly in front of you.
But the other thing was with this wonderfully interesting and endlessly fascinating visual phenomena, is that, with CFFF human's can also pick up, in their peripheral vision, the rapid movement of mean things with sharp long teeth - mean things like lions, tigers, wooly mammoths and 'no name' brand monsters.

And that brings us directly to the IF prompt.

Reversal - in that, in the time you have been reading this post, the hunters in my images, have become the hunted.

Obviously they need to train up their CFFF a little more.

Did you know that Hercules Poirot is on at 8.30 PM Sunday Nights here in Oz?
He'll be on in another twelve minutes.
Which is a bummer.
Because I still had to tell you about the Blue Fairy, how she also fits into this week's theme.

Oh well. Maybe I can work the Blue Fairy in with Mach Bands, and Temporal and Spatial Summation - the subject of next week's potentially rivetting and award winning post..... :)

Please click the images for BIG.

As always my apologies for raving on. I just needed some text to separate the images. Otherwise they look too crowded.

(Don't forget to have that dinner party next Saturday night. Invite lots of boring people so you can practice all the new techniques you learnt here today.)



  1. Oh, Andrew, sorry, I never imagined that in my eyes, I had rods and cones!!
    Ehhhh. forgive me, I will look in the mirror, and I come back tomorrow. to continue watching your beautiful post!. and leave my comment!:)

  2. Heheheheh! Aaaaaaaaaahhhh!Only you can make something clinical sound so mysterious. My rods are fine and so are my cones. In fact, I have recent beautiful portraits of my oculus dexter and oculus sinister. I may share them with you. For your eyes only. Hahahahahaha!

    Dang! I want to sit in the verandah and listen to you all afternoon.

  3. These illustrations are different from your usual. Very refreshing.

  4. These are very scary images. I think I will be scared if a band of dwarfs are running towards me. Never mind the monsters!

  5. Andrew,
    later, this thesis true over CFFF, I am no longer the same person! those dangers could be avoided if I already knew, how to drive CFFF! :D

    I loved these fairy illustrations, excellents elements, colors and textures!
    and dwarves running from creepy monsters are great! and the best is that they were the true hunters! very good!

    great the way you led us in this post,
    very clever!

    congrats and greetings from here!? :)

  6. Hehe heh Roberto, oh I left out the ganglions! Do y ou know about Mach bands? Mondrian used them o n some paintings (one or two windmill paintings in particular); you see the bands at night on the horizon when it is moonlit and you are gazing out to sea.

    Ces, you know I did the fairies for you? Ever since you were saying how much you hated them :) Well I want to make evil fairies !!!! (Laughing demoniccally) Oh these works have the same genesis but have a lot of post work. The original clean images weren't so interesting so I patinated them for a few hours - just experimenting.

    Denise, thanks so much. You are really kind to read that, thank you. I have been playing with some brushes I bought ages ago. I would love to experiment with textures later - I find your work very inspiring. Love your the way you use flat textures on rounded forms - and the opposing line work.

  7. I love this post, the whole rod and cone thing always confuses me, so you are over my head with this Andrew. I would get you to explain Lebers to me, but I probably would get lost ;) I love these. Ces is right, they are refreshing and different from your usual fair, well half of them anyway. Poor Dwarfs, too bad their CFFF wasn't working properly.

  8. wow, such a magic and fairy word! Love really it, and your choice of the colours is perfect, simple great Andrew

  9. Andrew, Your art has taken a new and wonderful direction. I loved all the images, the explanations and the good advice for dinner guests. Thanks for being so generous to share all of this.

  10. I'll have to remember your sprinkling-the-post-with-questions-to-keep them-reading technique. Plus, I like the colors you use. :)

  11. Hey Andrew, and I returned!
    (found 6 rods and 4 cones in my left eye, and 3 rods and 7 cones in the right, That's OK?) (now I have my eyes very irritated, because to identify them, I was checking with a microfiber
    I have tried all night to see some worms from the corner of my eye but I did it!
    I am afraid I am one of those rabbits that sooner or later I will be eaten.
    I am very anxious waiting for dinner next Saturday!!
    Leave, all with their mouths open.

    Thank you (now, out of a joke)
    You are very intelligent, always good to communicate through a smile.
    I'm tired of the serious faces.

  12. Really liking these, and the play of light and dark. Really liking the banner too. Nice use of color and text.

    I will share with others about rods and cones, because I'm sure this is something that will fascinate over the salmon bisque. It also plays into my questions about the migraines I get when I have to work under flourescent lights. A scientist friend suggested that I put an incandescent light in my peripheral vision to drown out the flicker, and that was very helpful.

  13. Oh. I do not want to sound egocentric. I realized that in my last comment I said many times "I".
    Try to compensate:
    you, you,you,you, you, you, you, you, you, you.

  14. I can’t wait for the next dinner party :o) I wish I would have checked out your blog last night before the Superbowl party.... I’m sure I could have intrigued many attendees with some CFFF facts :o) Flicker Fusion is also why a wheel seems to be moving backwards when it is really going forward. The only reason I know that is because we have a guy at work who’s nickname is Flicker. It’s because he works so slow that he looks like he’s going backwards, but he always manages to get his work done! Great post Andrew. Interesting stuff...I guess thats why you are “Andrew the Great Illuminator!” The different style you added is very cool. Especially the first fairie. I love your cheese-breating monsters and their luch! great expressions and characters. well Miss Marple comes on in 12 minutes....gotta go........

  15. Rods and cones are pretty interesting. Wanna feel your cones vibrate? Or is it your rods...I don't remember! Anyway, take this color acuity test: http://www.xrite.com/custom_page.aspx?PageID=77

    I gotta 7!

    Whoot! Whoot!

  16. Jeepers creepers, what a way to stimulate my peepers! You are enlightening, Mr. Finnie, and I mean the constant steady stream of light kind of enlightening. No flickering at all, no siree. Your images are thrilling and chilling. Oh, the suspense of being chased by three horrific beasties! Run, Forest, run!

    I think I will throw a dinner party this weekend to show off my new-found knowledge. But I'm afraid you cannot come, because you are far, far, far from boring!

  17. I was going to do the same thing! Honest!

    The luminescent layers, blood curdling beasties, and decelerating dwarfs, have gotten my rods and cones all tied up in a knot!

    I've got to give my eyeballs a rest now.

    By the way, love it!!

  18. It's always nice to learn a few things when looking through someones artwork! I feel like I'm a more knowledgable person now haha.
    Well these look a little different from your usual work! But it's still evident that you are the artist behind these wondrous pieces, I like the textures you've used, it adds a whole different feel to your work :)

  19. I lost my comment, but will say, "I see." Wonderful, fantastic work, as my eyes are becoming accustomed to this reality you've described so clearly through your art and writing! :o)

  20. Well, thank you for the fairies. Yours don't look cheap or cartoonish or sissy.

  21. Cette petite fée papillon me fait papillonner les yeux!! Elle est adorable. Le printemps arrive grâce à vous!

  22. Great work, Andrew, as always!!

  23. you write these so images don't look so crowded? haha...I don't mind reading it. Now I not only enjoy your work but also have learnt how my eyes work. It's comforting to know if I ever get hungry or if I'm in danger I got CFFF to help. I thought we have lost all those kind of things by sitting in front of the tv and computers.
    I love that fairy. it's colourful but there's a dark element about it, as it comes out from a fairy tale of horror. I like that :)

  24. Aah, so this is what an optometrist's jibber jabber is like! Quite a clever way to space out the images there, good fellow. And now I have something to offer whenever I'm stuck in one of those awkward dinners... rods and cones, anyone?

    Anyway, love the images, of course. If I scrolled up and down fast enough I actually get flickers in my eyes. And that ghost like girl? She's just fascinating to look at.

  25. YAYYYYY! im BACK (again!) HAHAHA :D they're right, everything will be better in the morning.
    i think my pc likes to play stupid game with me.

    i dont like faeries either (except for the irish ones).
    but your fairy is good, you know why? because she looks scary and the most important is i see birds flying.

  26. Twelve digits! Well, sir, that would explain a lot about your typing.


  27. did you know that when a bike is stolen a fairy dies?

  28. Hi, Andrew! Please, have a look at your comment and mine in Roberto's blog... How close our feelings about his works are...!
    I'll write later, excuse me, but I need more time to gather myself for commenting here!:)))))

  29. Andrew. I have met people with extreme delirium in their minds. (In fact, I when I look in the mirror). But believe me, like you, I've never met anyone.
    (Thanks for your concepts, which go far beyond quantum physics)
    (Oh, now I think Rossichka, also falls into this category)

  30. Well, Andrew it is fortunate that I *rarely* ever attend dinner parties, otherwise my Type A personality would be hyperventilating trying to cram all of this wonderful--and useful--information into my tiny arena of gray matter. A fascinating read though...and I really, really, really like the new look with your "Moonlight SOS" pieces! (Well, they are new to me, anyway.) :-)

    And, hey! I always thought that "Oz" was one more of your tongue-in-cheek humorous phrases, until yesterday when my pen pal illustrator friend, who vacations this time of year in Perth with her best friend, mentioned that she will see her ex-huband, another illustrator, in "Oz." I was finally motivated to Google it, and discovered that "Oz" is the nickname of Australia. Who would have guessed?

    Best wishes and Happy Valentine's Day...Susan

  31. Did you know that the birds have higher flicker fusion threshold than humans? That is great, because I am (a sort of) bird... and next time drawing based about Talbot-Plateau law?

  32. you mean a scientist.
    a wonderous scientist.

  33. I read your very interesting post and the first thing I thought of was....*Ces.... would love hanging out with you*...lol. Then I read that she wants to hang out on the porch with you!! LOL. I must be a mind reader...lol. I would bring the concept of CFFF to my next dinner party but fortunately I'm never at a lack of anything to say...: )

    Btw.....Is it lunch time there? just checking!! : ))

  34. Hello! I love the pig! I love pigs!!!!

  35. lots of intelligent comments here im so sorry i dont have like intelligent words to say you know me but it doesnt mean i dont love your works suddenly i remember my first time visit here was http://andrewfinnie.blogspot.com/2009/11/illustration-friday-blur.html and i was amazed by the bokeh but at that time i was afraid of saying something stupid still i will never forget this blog.

  36. bytheway are you really gonna paint audreywall????


    see you later byebye.

  37. Hi! As a result of your scientific lecture, richly illustrated with pictures in light and dark, I stopped at this - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye (first in Bulgarian, of course!)My head is obviously full of so many things that I can't find enough space at the moment for the "cones" and "rods"!:) But I'll sweep and clean to educate myself again - so many years after my biology lessons! By the way the theme of the compound eyes is a very interesting one, don't you think?
    You are such a good story teller, Andrew, that I didn't notice in details what's going on in the illustrations, while reading. Dwarves, monsters... these creatures are far away from my inner world, but I can't deny they are like alive and that you a master in creating and using light!:)))

  38. Intriguing post, Andrew...There are times when after too many drugs or too much over stimulation from a number of causes, the exact same thing can occur (of course, this is something I've only read about...not experienced:). The difference being, of course, that there is nothing actually there. It would be interesting to know what the correlation between CFFF and paranoia is.

  39. Well, I'll go as an ambassador. but you tell them that they do not point your beam weapon at my head, please!
    That will make me very nervous, I shake my hand, and when the alien king asked me a portrait of his daughter. I will come out horrible, ugly (maybe he look beautiful)
    and they will want to take with them their filthy planet to tear my eyes (do you saw the film Fire in the Sky?) and the only way to get out alive I'll be marrying the daughter of the king (the fat girl with 8 arms ) and I will have four hundred children (they are very fertile) with 8 arms each. Do you imagine all those hands caressing me? AJJJJ!!!! (I love the children) Do not worry, you will be the godfather to two hundred of my children ... (maybe youknowwho;) may be the godmother). Until Monday ... if they do not take me.

  40. I have to say, this was worth waiting for!

    Your art pieces are stunning. Love the second, eh, third-- fifth...?

    I love all of them!

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