Engineering a Rorshach

It is a pretty universal desire to want someone else to know exactly how one feels. By the same token, many people would love to know, to feel, exactly what someone else is feeling. This is the definition of empathy. But empathy – to truly feel what another individual is feeling – is impossible. The best we can do is to recognize if someone else looks sad, for example, and recall the feelings we had when we were sad and assume the other person might feel similarly.

The Rorshach test uses a set of standard inkblots to elicit responses from the observer. Supposedly, the observer’s interpretation illuminates underlying cognitive or personality deficits. I found it fascinating, however that “Rorschach’s use of inkblots may have been inspired by German doctor Justinus Kerner who, in 1857, had published a popular book of poems, each of which was inspired by an accidental inkblot.” (from Wikipedia)

My idea of engineering an inkblot is the converse of this concept: make an inkblot from a thought or poem. I actually began this process this morning, before the notion of inkblot engineering rose to my consciousness.

Today’s experiment: creating an unambiguous watercolor Rorshach test

I had a really crummy night and this morning I felt like my mood was trying to crawl under a duck. I had a dream where a man committed suicide by shooting himself twice in each eye…  You get the idea: I felt bad

Words could not express… so I went into my study, got some ivory black watercolor, and splattered it on my paper. I added a bit of kinetic energy by whacking the watercolor board in one direction ant then another. I sat back and looked for a pattern.  I saw a silhouette of a face that looked how I felt.

There have been many times when I have seen faces in marble tiles and other patterned surfaces, that no one else sees. I tried to think of a subtle way to emphasize this imagined face. With spattering still on my mind, I used a toothbrush to create a mist of color, and blocked out the area that contained the face. I splattered winsor red, quinacridone red, cadmium red, aureolin yellow, permanent mauve and quinacridone purple on everything that was not the face profile. (I used spattering in another composition from an entirely different perspective – as the brother of an low functioning, nonverbal individual.)

Watercolor Study - Abstract - Splatter Painting

Red Shift
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Reference to identity shift:

I call this composition, Red Shift, since my mood – although it seemed permanent at the time – was a temporary identity shift. Although I have not commented extensively on the reasons for my mood shift, it affected me very much. Permanent identity shifts, based on changes in health, family or socioeconomic circumstances, require long periods of adjustments. Temporary identity shifts based on mood or mental status can be just as devastating.

Maybe I have been successful in conveying a feeling that comes close to what I was feeling this morning. I do hope that the viewer looking at my watercolor, experiences a feeling of some kind.

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