DOES THE ARTIST GUIDE YOUR EYE? Art critics in discussing the composition of a painting will often describe how the artist guides your eye into and through the painting. I mentioned to Annalisa that when I look at a painting, my eyes do not follow the path that the art critics say they should. She told me that James Gurney, a very good artist, talks about this on his Gurney Journey blog.

Here is a post where Gurney reflects on the traditional way of discussing composition. Gurney takes as an example an analysis by the Famous Artists Course of an illustration by Robert Fawcett. Gurney quotes them: “The scroll is the important point of interest in this picture. Robert Fawcett has skillfully used lines to direct our eye to it. The line formed by the arm of the foreground figure draws our attention almost irresistibly across the upper right of the picture, down to the scroll, and finally to the head of the king. Notice how we are forced to look back and forth from the king’s head to the scroll.” This is the way I was told that artists operate.

Gurney says that from a pure design point of view, his eye would follow a different path. There is a blank space in the middle of the drawing, and Gurney says: “To me the driving force of the picture’s abstract design is the contrast between clutter and emptiness.” That is what caught my eye initially as well.

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