On Sharing Pareidolia

The recent launch of my website http://www.hiddencreaturesart.com has quickly revealed how interesting it is to share pareidolia artwork.
Pareidolia has been defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern”. Yep, that definitely feels familiar and those meaningful images that I perceive as a pareidoliaist often amount to creatures or just faces. This word is not to be found in my beloved 1983 Deluxe Second Edition of Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary – a book that cost $5 and has survived being lugged around the world for many years.

However, the German word pareidolie can be found in the 19th century work of Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum, which he used in a similar sense to how we use the word pareidolia today.

As I drew Holly and The Ivy, I stayed true to my own perceptions throughout the drawing, apart from one exception where I purposefully added in someone whom I did not actually perceive in Martin’s photograph. When I mentioned this to the fabulous group of Facebook followers on A Cambridge Diary, where Martin Bond
kindly shared my drawing alongside his beautiful photograph (which he took in 2013) of Trinity College main entrance, a marvellous stream of guesswork developed in the comments:

“Elizabeth I? Bottom left wearing the ruff. Daughter of Henry VIII, who founded Trinity in 1546”
“Dame Sally Davies, current master from her glasses?”
“Is the elegant lady bottom left Katherine Parr?”
“Virginia Woolf? I associate her with Trinity and feel as if she’s in your picture?”
“Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland”
“It’s Jane Asher top middle!!”
“It makes me think of the Secret Garden”

How amazing is that? All of these magnificent references that people perceive in my drawing, none of which were specifically on my mind whilst I was drawing it. Yet, I know that where I draw and what’s going on around me – both locally and in the world at large – as well as all that has happened beforehand, however long ago, does impact the inspiration I receive, at least subconsciously, from an image whilst I draw it.

Holly and The Ivy alongside Martin’s photograph

Just as a work of literature and its characters mean one thing to the author but invariably evolve in meaning for others when these are publicly shared, clearly some pareidolia drawings are layered enough to provoke a similar response. It’s wonderful feedback for an artist to know how her work is seen objectively. So, to all those who share your insights, it’s much appreciated.

It also seems that pareidolia can be fine-tuned, as in one person’s response to my drawing:

“Looking back at the photo after seeing the drawing, I too can spot the owl on her dress!!”

If you’d like to have a fine art giclée print of Holly and The Ivy or any of my other drawings to contemplate further, just head over to the shop tab at






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