Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eye Movement

I just wanted to post real quick a diagram of eye movement as it relates to a composition. Review my post on DUMB-V for clarification of how this relates to your work.

Movement within a Composition
The human eye follows certain paths when looking at an object or composition. Straight lines are a natural guide- our eye wants to see where the line ends. Arrows and pointy things also lead our eye in the direction they're pointing.

When you have contrasting colors, or light areas with darker areas around them then these create pathways our eye wants to follow. Remember, contrast attracts us. If your visual pathway is a long strip of light then our eye follows the light line to... well, to whatever is at the end of the line.

If we look at the lilacs from yesterday the highlights on the leaves pull our eye back into what is important- the two blooms.

Here I've diagrammed out the pathways. The blue arrows lead you to the top bloom, the pink arrows pull you to the bottom bloom.

Most of the visual paths are clear. Our eye follows them and goes where we want it to. However, note the spot where the small pink arrow above the bottom bloom aims down, then you have a strong blue arrow.

This is conflict. Our eye was following one path, not a very strong path, but then it got interrupted and is shown a much stronger path. What should I do?

In the future, I would probably color the far leaf with less highlight, since it's such a small area anyways. Then the visual pathway would not be cluttered. In this case, I don't mind very much because the conflict is small. The pink arrow is weak and the blue arrow is strong. A real conflict would be two strong elements colliding.

If two elements collide then you create a focal point. If that focal point isn't what you want important then you have a problem. Big circles break lines- there's no place for your eye to go once it hits a circle (think a bulls-eye). Small rows of circles become a repeating element and then become a path.

If two elements meet up and flow together then you are just reinforcing a path. If you follow the bottom most pink arrow - it pulls you to the bottom of the bottom bloom then you bump right into a strong blue arrow pulling you into the top bloom. This is good composition. Your eye ends up traveling the whole length of the piece.

Another visual pathway which I did not diagram out is the stem. See how it flows into each of the blooms. This is a much more subtle path, but a visual guide nonetheless. When you are working on a project you might want to figure out visual pathways. If there is a spot on your composition that does not help the pathway or it draws your eye away from what's important then consider how you can change the colors to lessen the conflict. I try to take these things into account when drawing my artwork in the first place so that coloring it in reinforces what my lines were guiding already.

I don't want you to over-think your work, but I'm just trying to help you understand how to make things look better. Have a great weekend!


freida said...

Wow, Marianne, I've never looked at a composition in such depth! How I would have loved to have studied under you years ago!

Julia said...

This is fabulous. I've always had a problem with composition when it comes to cardmaking. I know this is going to help me. Thanks!

Lynne Phelps said...

I sincerely hope that this gorgeous lilac sketch will be coming out as a stamp from Our Craft Lounge, especially as we now all understand how to make it look so beautiful!

This has been a WONDERFUL series on color, blending, shadows and composition. Now just let us know about that new lilac stamp!!

Anonymous said...

Love these ideas, Marianne - thanks so much. I agree it's important not to overthink things when creating something, but keeping good design in mind is important. I love all your design tips - they're so helpful and I use them a lot. You're awesome!!