James Gurney's, Marketplace of Ideas, and the computer research performed on his image. From the book Dinotopia: Journey to Chandra.
The first comment posted by Mary Byrom took me to some interesting research on eye tracking. The information was posted on the blog of James Gurney.
The research is found under the index of composition and is extremely revealing about how we look at images. I have attached below the six conclusions drawn from the research. We know the brain is a pattern seeking organ and wants to make recognizable sense out of what it sees. The more obscure the image is the harder the brain works to detect something recognizable. When painting a still life, having a "mystery" that makes the viewer's eye linger to understand what something is, is a great technique.
These experiments force us to question a few of our cherished notions about composition and picture-gazing.
1. The eye does not flow in smooth curves or circles, nor does it follow contours. It leaps from one point of interest to another. Curving lines or other devices may be "felt" in some way peripherally, but the eye doesn't move along them.Because a still life doesn't usually have a face in it (some do have photos, etc.), we have to think differently about what draws the eye in. If you are a still life painter, how do you plan your compositions? Once again my thanks to Mary Byrom who brought this research to my attention.
2. Placing an element on a golden section grid line doesn’t automatically attract attention. If an attention-getting element such as a face is placed in the scene, it will gather attention wherever you place it.
3. Two people don’t scan the same picture along the same route. But they do behave according to an overall strategy that alternates between establishing context and studying detail.
4. The viewer is not a passive player continuously controlled by a composition. Each person confronts an image actively, driven by a combination of conscious and unconscious impulses, which are influenced, but not determined, by the design of the picture.
5. The unconscious impulses seem to include the establishment of hierarchies of interest based on normal expectations or schema of a scene. For example, highly contrasting patterns of foliage or branches will not directly draw the gaze unless they are perceived as anomalous in the peripheral vision.
6. As pictorial designers we shouldn’t think in abstract terms alone. Abstract design elements do play a role in influencing where viewers look in a picture, but in pictures that include people or animals or a suggestion of a story, the human and narrative elements are what direct our exploration of a picture.
As Dr. Edwards succinctly puts it, “abstract design gets trumped by human stories.” The job of the artist, then, in composing pictures about people is to use abstract tools to reinforce the viewer’s natural desire to seek out a face and a story.