Directing The Eye

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How can the artist lure the mind’s eye into infinite musing?  There are demonstrable strategies. They depend on both biological predilections and culturally acquired systems. Following European painting traditions these include: orienting planes with varying inclines toward an infinite goal, variations on different criteria of the perspective of disappearance which include color, value, texture and form.  This blog includes schematic designs demonstrating how to align a picture’s shapes with  principles underlying the perception of receding and advancing space.

Variations of these criteria have been used since ancient Egypt  which employed overlapping forms to indicate whether one form is in front or in back of another. In my examples today I begin with landscape imagery. Consider example 1 which presents an ascending meadow which eventually rolls toward a vague horizon softened by the sensations of gradient shifts,  atmospheric perspective, proportionally diminishing scale (linear perspective), color recession presented through complementary contrasts as well as desaturating and lightening color, diminishing value contrasts, diminishing edge acuity, amalgamating forms in the distance, and the ordering of shapes within the composition to point toward the most distant area, the horizon.

Note, the continuum of red lines indicates the procession of wildflowers. The Blue lines indicate the rear area in the pastel hues of atmospheric perspective.

Example 1. Summer Vanishes, an oil on brushed silver enameled aluminum, final step,

Example 2. Summer Vanishes, diagram of ordered shapes directed toward the horizon,

I began by thinking about the design (see the diagram) but, the diagram you see came after the painting to served as an illustration of the composition. Initially, I sketched a related but different design. Next, I moved into the paint to discover how the design might mutate.  The following examples present various steps in the unfolding of the painting (examples 3 and 4). In Example 4 we do not yet see the later atmospheric effects only,  where they will be staged.

Example 3. Summer Vanishes, step one,.

Example 4. Summer Vanishes, step two.

In example 5 and 6, “Conservatory Water Garden” I present both the image in its present state and a diagram of its design. The diagram is in varied colors to indicate how color also plays a role in building a sensation of space.  The red circled area corresponds to the painting’s coral colored, indefinite, circular area which stands in contrast to the surround blues and greens. The blue and violet flowers differentiate themselves more easily above the surface due the color contrast.  Warmer tones give way to cooler and less contrasting values as we move back into the space.

This work was prompted by a visit to the conservatory glass-housed gardens at Longwood. I was attracted to the elephantine lilies with cupped edges. They felt so solid and broad. And, the filtered sunlight was amplified by the fog on my camera lens. Transmuting these sensations into paint was subtle fun.

Example 5. “Conservatory Water Garden” oil on Dibond,

Example 6. “Conservatory Water Garden” diagrammed,

My last example (example 7, “Sanford Farm”) shows a design which almost twins with “Summer Vanishes” as seen in example 1. To compare similarities in their structure see the diagrammed version of the diagram for example 7 with the diagram in example 2.  The differences lie in the steepness of the ascending foreground and in the severe break between foreground and background as you see in “Sanford Farm”. I almost cleaved the picture between foreground and background. The intervening lake makes this possible without sacrificing the picture’s unity.  Furthermore, it is a strategy used by other landscape artists like Corot.

Example 7.  Sanford Farm, oil on brushed silver aluminum composite, a.k.a Dibond,

Example 8. Sanford Farm, diagrammed,

I invite you to my lecture on “What We See and How We Look” on how our culturally and biologically acquired vision determines what we see and how we perceive and judge. Sunday, November 4 at 4:30 PM at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. from 4:30 to 6PM. See or call the Silvermine School of Art at 203 966 6668 ext2. Walk-ins are welcome.

I invite you sign up for my two-day painting workshop, Natural Elements at the West Hartford Art League. It is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday January 19 and 20, 2019. You may register on line at the West Hartford Art League’s website or call the registrar at 860 231 9019 ext#2.

My show continues at the White Gallery at 342 Main Street in Lakeville, Ct. the show has been extended through November.   The gallery is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM. for other hours or an appointment tel: 860 435 1029 or visit

I again invite you to join me this year for Jerry’s Artarama’s tradeshow and workshops at their Art of The Carolinas in November (9th -11th) in Raleigh Durham NC. I now have two workshops to offer you with only one space available for Saturday and 12 spaces for Sunday. My Saturday workshop SA1807 is “Nature Up Close” in oil/wc/and acrylic. My Sunday workshop SU1807 is “Cities in Motion, Bridging Realism and Abstraction”. A more fulsome description is available through Jerry’s Artarama Art of the Carolinas website. Or on  Try  Also, for the complete description of my workshops you can visit this website but, under the category of “Classes and Events” on the homepage.











4 Responses

  1. Edward Shumate

    Around 57 years ago in junior college, taking a required humanities course in art, I still remember the instructor saying that the eye enters a painting on the right side and circles toward the center. In painting abstracts over the past year, I have noticed that this old advice doesn’t seem to hold as I have found, mostly by accident, ways of drawing the eye into a painting. Once again, thank you.

  2. Ken wright

    Thank you! Your explanations are helping me to look at a scene and to better see and understand it with perspective! Very enriching for all of us novices!

  3. Cee Basham

    I’ve enjoyed watching your new floral DVD and would like to try what you are doing, but not sure I would have the same results using standard canvas. I’d like to try working with aluminum. Can you recommend a brand and a source to buy some to experiment with? Many thanks!

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