Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eye Path

               Memories of Key West    11"X14"
Blogging about beginnings provided much needed insight on the process of starting.  Was there one right way?  From all of you who gave me insight into your beginnings coupled with what the master artists said, the answer is a resounding No.  I do know that the beginning you choose plays a large part on how it will look in the end.  Consequently, have the end in mind before you begin.
Now I have another issue that has plagued me for a long time.  The idea of composition and the placement of the elements that create an eye path for the viewer.  Countless books demonstrate how your eye moves throughout  a painting.  Arrows are drawn showing the movement around the elements.  Although academically it makes sense, my eye doesn't move around the way the arrows show.  Usually it goes directly to the most interesting aspect of the work and it stays there.  Only then do I look around at the other elements.   Then last week I read in an excerpt from a book on composition that said,   "One enters a painting from neither the left nor right, but from the front, going straight to that element of greatest contrast nearest the center."  BINGO!  That's what happens to me.  Someone had finally described my experience.  So my question to you is--am I not understanding eye path?  Are these eye path arrows more about good composition and not so much about how the viewer looks at a painting?  Or is this movement so quick that our brain only registers the final stopping point (focal point) in the painting?   Memories of Key West (above and with the top cut off) seems to have an eye path but it's the shell where my eye goes to first and lingers.  It's only after going to the shell  that I look at the glass lantern and crinkled paper.  Another thought might be that painters look at paintings differently than the general public. In your experience, do you compose your composition with eye movement in mind?  How do you view a painting?


  1. James Gurney has posted the results of a study on this in a past blog. It might answer your questions.

  2. Deborah, after reading your blog, I think "eye path" may be up to the viewer. What struck me first was the blue bottle. Why? Because I am fascinated with glass and the painting of glass. The shell also caught my eye because of the colors. I think also we as artists can manipulate the eye path with the way we place the objects and focus the light. In that sense, I think the eye path is at the discretion of the artist and what effect they want to create. Loves,

  3. You are totally right. The viewer is searching to make sense of the objects. Check out the next blog and what the research says about eye tracking. I'd be interested in what you think about the entire article.


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