The Importance of Dots

It is often the little things that are the basis of progress… So let me tell you a little story about the tiniest thing on earth: the dot.

Thousands of years ago, a man in his solitude scanned the night sky and saw all those dots shining like so many still fireflies, and, perhaps for fun, he decided to join them together to form shapes. This is how zodiac signs and astronomy were born.

Far away, in ancient India, the dot symbolized beauty and the eye of knowledge. But even more, the dot they called “shunya-bindu” (शून्यबिन्दु) represented what we nowadays know as zero. It was first a placeholder and then a fully fledged number, for when it is added to the right of the representation of any given digit, the value of the digit is multiplied by ten. This is how our current numbers and decimal numeration system were born.

While drawing or painting, visual artists of all times used to fix a dot – or more specifically a point in space – which was traditionally visualized from the tip of their thumb. Eventually, when this point receded so far away in space, it became known as a “vanishing point”. A vanishing point is where all converging lines of a landscape meet at the horizon. This is how perspective and geometry were born.

One day, medieval musicians were tired of having to rely solely on their memories to remember songs. So they started to use dots, named “puncti”, placed on or between four lines to represent the pitch and duration of a sound. This is how musical notation and programming were born.

In the modern era, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, dots were used in many other symbolic forms: bumps, holes, single tones, flashes of light… Do the terms Braille, Morse, punched card, or pixel sound familiar to you? This is how communication and coding were born.

This is how the humble dot, often overlooked, has served as a fundamental building block for countless advancements throughout history. Never underestimate the power of small things; within a dot was the whole universe.

Bridget Riley, White Discs 2, 1964, emulsion on board, 41 × 39 inches (104 × 99 cm) © Bridget Riley 2021. All rights reserved.

(The text above has been used as foreword for the book “The All-Round Activity Book” available from Amazon)

Perceptual Nexus: A new philosophy of perception

Presenting a sneak peek of my upcoming philosophical book on perception.

In this exploration, I dissect the dynamic interplay between our “self,” the elusive “perception sphere,” and the external world. Operating independently, the perception sphere lacks self-awareness, creating a symbiotic relationship with the self, which, in turn, relies on the sphere for perceiving both itself and the external world.

Eager to discuss further with potential publishers.

The Master of Numbers

Presenting “The Master of Numbers,” my acclaimed artwork. This photomosaic portrait, assembled from 288 random number-themed photos, creates a captivating optical illusion, revealing the image of a great physicist from a distance.

Currently showcased in numerous Museum of Illusions globally, posters and prints of this optical art can be found on my online store.

einstein large Continue Reading

Globes within Spirals? (Optical Art Tutorial)

© Gianni A. Sarcone –

Are you seeing spirals? Look again, they’re actually concentric circles! This unique variation of the “Fraser spiral” plays tricks on your eyes by blending a regular line pattern (representing the circle’s circumference) with misaligned elements (the spheres with varying brightness).

Would you like to learn how to create this mesmerizing illusion? Follow my simple visual tutorial. If you have any ideas to further enhance this project, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Continue Reading


Do our eyes truly act as the gateway to the world, as poets suggest? Not quite. We see the world through tiny pupils that act as spy holes. Our brain is like a creative ‘camera obscura‘, constantly comparing differences between images received by each eye and individual elements within each image. This makes our eyes highly sensitive to contrasts in brightness, sharpness, and depth. Sometimes, our brain tries to correct what we see.

Try this experiment: Look at the blurry face below next to the sharp one for 20-30 seconds (staring at the fixation star between them), then quickly shift your gaze to the same scene further below. You’ll notice that the previously clear face now appears blurry while the previously blurry face appears clearer. This illusion, called contrast adaptation or contrast gain control, occurs because prolonged exposure to blurry images affects our visual acuity and sensitivity to contrast.

blurred faces and contrast adaptation
© Gianni A. Sarcone

Enlightening Exhibition

Per celebrare la luce è stato realizzato un percorso espositivo nell’Università di Firenze dedicato alle illusioni ottiche. La mostra, curata da un comitato scientifico, ospita anche molte delle mie opere.

To celebrate light, an exhibition’s itinerary was created at the University of Florence to explore the world of optical illusions. The exhibition, curated by a scientific committee, also hosts many works of mine.

Maggiori informazioni / More information

Illusive Color Mixing

When your brain lies… There is NO yellow, nor red, nor green in the picture below! The only real colors are blue, cyan and magenta. Scientists and artists call these color induction effects “simultaneous color contrast” and “color assimilation”.

Concept taken from my book “Drawing Optical Illusions” (2010).
Continue Reading

Subliminal Faces

This series of works questions the many cognitive aspects of faces’ recognition. People often see hidden faces in things, clouds, landscapes, or in architectural structures… Finding the latent or virtual image hidden in the manifest image is a mental process related to the concept of the “lost object” used in psychoanalysis. As an artist, I enjoy including subliminal messages or figures in my work. My paintings, photographs and collages play on the foreground and background relationship of our visual perception and represent common or iconic faces the viewer has to rediscover.

The Master of Numbers
Collage – mixed media, 2006

Photomosaic portrait of Albert Einstein made with random photographs of numbers.
It is only when the viewer moves away from the image that the portrait of Einstein appears. It is the distance that creates and unveils the truth, because everything is relative as Einstein once said and everything depends on the context, the environment or the point of view.

Continue Reading