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Old 09-26-2003, 01:35 PM   #1
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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One eye on center of canvas?

A few years ago, I did some research on the web for portrait articles. Here's one that you might find interesting to contemplate:

[QUOTE]Star Tribune. Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Painters tend to keep one eye on center of canvas, scientists says

A scientist who studies vision and the brain has made a curious discovery about portrait painting: Artists almost always place one eye of their subject at the horizontal center - a point halfway between the left and right sides of the picture frame. "I have no idea why all artists do this, but they apparently do it unconsciously," said Dr. Christopher Tyler, a neuroscientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco.

Neither art analysis books nor historians discuss the eye centering, Tyler said, yet artists have done it for more than 500 years.

Tyler's discovery, described in the April 30 issue of the journal Nature, stems from his interest in left-brain and right-brain differences. The human brain has two hemispheres that specialize in different tasks.

Tyler said he wondered whether the left and right brains have different aesthetic appreciation for art. He decided to show paintings to a patient whose left and right hemispheres had been disconnected surgically and who essentially saw the world with two separate brains.

Tyler still has no answer to that question. But he made his other discovery along the way. Tyler had taken photos of 170 famous portraits from the past five centuries and marked the midpoint along the top of the picture. Then he had drawn a vertical line that divided each painting at its horizontal center.

One eye or the other almost always fell on or very near the center. "Clever composition generates the overall impression that the face is symmetrically located in the frame," Tyler said. "Only when the vertical line is drawn through the picture does it become clear that one eye is at the exact horizontal center. It seems artists go to great lengths to place one eye on this spot."

Eye placement could tap into human perception and affect our aesthetic judgments, Tyler said. For example, when heads are turned at an angle, the forward eye usually is along the center line. But when the other eye is placed there, he said, "you get the sense of a more intimate connection with the person. They are less bold. You connect with their shyness."

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Old 09-26-2003, 02:08 PM   #2
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Uncle Chris has always been such a kidder. I'll bet he wrote this on April 1st.
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Old 09-26-2003, 02:09 PM   #3
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Very interesting article.

I suspect it comes down to compositional issues. One eye is usually made the focal point of the painting. For example, when a face is turned somewhat to the viewer's right, the eye on the viewer's left is pretty much directly facing the viewer and many artists choose to make that eye the focal point of the painting. Therefore it gets positioned along that center line.

Just my guess.
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Old 09-26-2003, 06:31 PM   #4
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Those who have had the privilege of watching Peggy Baumgaertner
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Old 09-26-2003, 07:14 PM   #5
Peter Jochems Peter Jochems is offline
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I thought I read it somewhere in an old book, couldn't find it back to check it. If I do I will post it here.
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Old 09-27-2003, 09:20 AM   #6
Tom Edgerton Tom Edgerton is offline
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I remember this article, and I've always thought it was much ado about nothing. This guy, not being an artist, thinks he stumbled onto some big arcane mumbo-jumbo that either he was the first to observe or that we all conspired to keep secret throughout the centuries.

In fact, portrait artists have talked about it in shop talk about composition all along, and it was just another topic. I remember Richard Whitney addressing it in a late-night session at an ASOPA conference several years ago. The sky didn't part.

If the ears were in the middle of the head, they'd be in the middle of the painting, and often....DUH!

How much would a scientist by trade know about what "clever composition generates..?" And what of all the non-portrait figurative and genre work throughout art history, where the humans therein weren't--by definition--the main focal point of the piece? It's as if this guy is proud and excited to discover that eyes are generally in the center of passport photos.

Don't tell the general public, let them think we all have a direct line to the cosmos. But we all know that art is only partly intuition, spirit, and passion. It's also daily application of knowledge, craft, and hard work.

"The dream drives the action."
--Thomas Berry, 1999
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Old 09-27-2003, 12:09 PM   #7
Lisa Gloria
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Yay Tom!

Many people still think "art is an expression" and liken it mentally to automatic writing or snoring Beethoven's ninth.

We need a PR campaign telling people it's hard. Bob Ross, god love 'im, may have done a disservice to the profession by making it look so easy.
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Old 09-27-2003, 12:14 PM   #8
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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Perpetuating the myth

The lack of emphasis on drawing and painting skills in Art Schools make it appear easy to the students as well.
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Old 09-27-2003, 03:47 PM   #9
Peter Jochems Peter Jochems is offline
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I like Bob Ross. Especially when he cleans his brushes he's funny

His snowy landscapes are my favourites.
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Old 09-27-2003, 05:01 PM   #10
Lisa Gloria
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I like Bob Ross too. I like his somnolent voice, and the way he would close by saying "Be kind to each other."

I've been pondering why the effort of art is so devalued. It would take a while to discuss it here, but I wonder about the reasons. When I was doing commercial art, I'd get loads of flack for the minutest of things, in part because everyone honestly believes that this is something they can do. There is little credibility given to commercial artists. I worked on the web, and would work for marketing directors who would literally say things like "Oh that would be perfect if it were just 3 pixels to the left." On the one hand they're saying I didn't know what I was doing, and on the other hand, they're saying they have some authority. (Later I was a marketing director, and I let my designers do whatever they thought was best.)

So, some kind of art is everywhere. We have graphic design all over the place, and a blurred line bewtween fine and commercial art. We've got everyone from your kindergarten teacher onward telling us what wonderful artists we are, and very few people treating this like a vocation. I heard a woman the other night rattling on about the market for fine art, particularly realistic art, and she wasn't sure it was a wise career choice. This woman is a bartender, not a painter or collector, about the farthest thing from an artist, ever.

So what makes a barmaid think she actually has a handle on the art market? (Besides 12 Skyy and tonics.) A lot of things, of course, but her exposure to the making of art is probably 70% Bob Ross, and she really thinks it ain't that hard. If she got off her butt, she could probably do it too.
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