Can we change where eyes look?

Using some research to our advantage, we will make some pictures, and see if we can direct eyes to certain spots!
Bodhi Hipfner Seeton Naested
Grade 6


Our project is made up of three different groups of design: Architecture, Realism, and Abstract. We will research to find some ways each category directs eyes. We will then ask friends and family where they think their eyes are focusing in the picture. 

Picture 1: Architecture/Landscaping

For this picture we predict that most eyes will focus on the middle of the image. This is because the picture starts out short, with a line of three trees. Each tree is placed higher and higher up, therefore, lead eyes up towards the middle of the picture. Then, we reach a house. It's small and simple, so it doesn’t confuse the viewer's eyes. The roof is triangle shaped, so when rain or snow falls on the house, it just falls off the edges. It's also triangle shaped so the viewer's eyes continue to get directed up towards the middle. Then, we reach the maximum height of the drawing, in the middle. That’s where eyes will stay before going back down again on the other side. So I think eyes will look at the door in the middle.

Picture 2: Realism

In this picture I have drawn a person walking through a large crowd. I have used methods from real realisms to try and direct the viewer's attention to the handkerchief the man is carrying. To hopefully draw the attention to the handkerchief, I have blurred out the crowd so the attention goes to the walking man. By doing this I have given him individuality which forces our attention to the man, specifically to his face, and even more specifically to his eyes. His eyes are directed at the handkerchief which he is raising to his face, which is in the upper half of the paper, and that is where my attention is most commonly focused. So my hypothesis is that the attention will go to the handkerchief (or possibly the face, if they don't follow the direction of the man's eyes). 

Picture 3: Abstract

It's sort of hard to explain this one, but in this picture there's a purple circle close to the bottom left of the page that has three purple dots inside of it. These dots make it look kind of like a face to eyes will look there. To add to that there are wavy purple 'arms' that start big and thin out as they go on to the outsides of the page. That will lead eyes to the middle. In between these 'arms' is just white, except for one that has numerous colours. You'd think that eyes would get drawn to the colours but the colours act as a pathway toward the middle. This is because the path gets smaller as it nears the middle. So my hypothesis is that people will look at the purple circle with three little dots.


Realism Notes

- Our brains are made to recognize human faces, especially their eyes.

- We will move our eyes in the direction the portrait’s eyes are looking.

- We tend to look at the top part of the page first, with our eyes moving left to right.

- Realism or naturalism is the realistic depiction of ordinary people and things. They usually have some unseen story happening. Older realisms tended to be rather small mainly because making them was awfully expensive. Realisms were usually portraying religious scenes.

- Realisms these days are usually hyper realistic and of animals, plants, people, buildings or really just anything you see regularly.

How does Realism draw our eyes?

Realism, like most art, uses the movement of our eyes and the processing of our brain to draw attention to certain parts of the image. For example, our eyes usually start at the top of the page and look downwards, swivelling left to right, almost like reading a page in a book. Also, we tend to find things in the top half of the page more important than the things in the bottom half of the page. Artists can use this to their advantage when making realisms. 

Our eyes also easily detect faces in art; and when we do, our attention almost immediately goes to the eyes. From there, our attention will go to wherever the eyes are looking, thus leaving our attention pointed at that. Of course, our eyes will also go to the character’s hands and see if they’re holding anything. 


Realism became very popular in the 1850s, when a growing movement in France rose in opposition to “Romanticism” which was the most popular form of art at the time. This movement began shortly after the French Revolution and started the Realism art period.

Artist Spotlight: Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet is a French painter who led to the Realism movement in France. He did both paintings and sculptures. He is a very famed Realism artist. How does he draw our eyes to certain parts of his paper?  Gustave is known for painting portraits, drawing everyone’s attention to the face, especially when it is staring right at the viewers. 


Architecture notes

- Keep it simple! Colours, textures, and shapes should be easy to follow and understand.

- Shapes are everything.  You may not notice it at first but shapes are everything in Architecture. Keep them simple, and make them lead to the focus.

- Don't be afraid to be a little bold. Make your building stand out amongst the crowd!

- Use you building to set the mood for those who see and go inside it. Is it a comfy cabin look, or a fancy modern look?


The main types of architecture!

Without getting into to many details and variants,  here's is a simple and basic list of some types.

- Ancient (Aztec villages, Egyptian pyramids and tombs). Very blocky with a heavy reliance on the natural building materials in the area.

- Medieval (castles, villages walls). Everything must be practical with means of defence!

- Roman (the Colosseum, aqueducts, sculptures). The first type to care that it looked good! Also lots and lots of arches.

- Gothic/Renaissance (Haunted mansions, building looking buildings). Lots of triangle roofs, so snow and rain just rolls of to the sides also its way more colourful and expressive.

- Colonial (Georgian stuff, advanced houses, and, if you lived in a swap, stilts). When people colonized the Americas, the decided to rely on local building resources rather than spend half their time looking around for something to build their house with.

-  Victorian (lots of these are still around and are lived in) The colonizers settled it and made good looking houses! This is my favourite type!

-  Modern (today). The stuff all around us. It's diverse and cool

- Ultra modern (that one house that look like it shouldn't work). All the shapes, sizes and colours that you could think of! Simple, and it makes you go woah... that's cool....


Artist spotlight: Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 and passed in 2016. In her life she lived in Iraq and Britain. She also made some of the coolest buildings I have ever seen. All her designs are consistently breath-taking. How did she do it? Curves. In architecture, it is important to get the viewer focusing on the most important spot, sure. But their eyes still must circulate throughout. Hou to take someone’s eyes from point A to point B? Smooth curves. Then you literally give eyes an easy path to follow! She had curves in almost all her buildings, which did wonders for her.

Abstract Notes

Abstract art is a form of art that doesn’t have to follow a concrete design, and some rules don’t always apply. It can be a great way of expressing oneself and uses big bursts of colour of m ellow faded tones to draw viewer’s eyes to certain parts of the picture. Historians speculate its beginnings date back from 50, 000 to 100, 000 years ago. 

Abstract art is meant to pop out and turn heads. It differs itself from other art styles because it doesn’t follow the same artistic patterns as, say, realism. Abstract is different because it is of nothing in particular and can be anything. It is weird and colourful and beautiful in its own special way.


Artist Spotlight: Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is an American abstract artist who does painting on a large piece of paper. He makes his works by taking different kinds of brushes, sticks and even rocks and uses them to flick, drizzle or fling drops of paint onto the paper. This creates a really cool image. Here is an example of some of his art:

How does he draw our eyes to certain parts of his paper? Jackson Pollock uses big bursts of colour and interesting shaped or sized spots of paint. Large streaks can make a pathway for our eyes up and down and across the paper.


The variables are from the different drawings. They will all be treated the same, it's just that they're different forms of design. Another variable is those who view. Their brains are made differently, and therefor may have different opinions.


The procedure of our experiment will go as follows: Bodhi will bring his realism art to his class and ask both the teacher's consent and the student's consent to be participants, they will sign a consent form. He will then continue with the process and ask each of the participants where their eyes go in the picture and mark it down on a tally sheet. He will thank them and they will continue with their class (we will inform them of the results of the experiment after we have finished filling out the rest of the CYSF forms). After we fill out the tallies we will record the information in the "conclusion" form.

Seeton will take photos of his art and send them to many friends and family members. Then they will give consent and will send him the answers. They are aware of the recording of age and gender.


Realism test: Observations. I observed that almost half of the people looked at the man's face but a very small amount looked at the handkerchief he was holding. Some people also noticed that only one of the crowd was wearing high heels. I noticed that some people looked at a specific man in the crowd's face and I noticed that was because he was taller than most of the crowd and was looking directly at the viewer. I observed that some people mentioned seeing the dark building as their eyes moved across the paper.

Architecture observations: Most people said that where they looked was the door, with 42% saying that. That proves the hypothesis right. Next most popular section was the windows with 21% of people agreeing that it was where their eyes were going. Interestingly the younger the participants were (usually) the less predictable they were.

Abstract observations: 68% looked at the circle/face thing in it, which is right in line with what we had guessed. There really isn't much to say about this one, it was quite straight forward.


Realism Analysis: Two days after experiment, analysing results. Experiment results were informative and enlightening. Most people just gave a short, precise answer of what they were looking at, but some others (without being asked or required to) gave me an in-depth analysis of what they saw, the journey their eyes went on across the paper and even theorized stories behind what's happening in the picture. This added information was not essential for the experiment but helped me understand art and the flow of eyes more than ever. 

I interviewed a total of 17 people and 7 of them focused on the walking man's face or the walking man in general, this was expected. Only two people focused on the handkerchief the man was holding, which I thought would be more. Two people said they focused on the crowd of people walking in the background, which I suppose makes sense. One person focused on a building that was darker than the others, which makes sense because the difference in colour stands out. One person focused on a lady who was jogging in the background because of her curly dark hair, which stands out against the white paper. Two people focused on a kid waving in the crowd, this gave him individuality which makes him noticeable. And two people focused on a man in the crowd with a bow tie; he was taller than most of the crowd and was looking right at the viewers, directing attention to him.

Final Analysis: So, in the end, almost half of the viewer's eyes went to the man in front but not many went to the handkerchief he was holding. 


Architecture analysis: One day after experiment, analysing results. 42% of the people said they focused on the door, which was hypothesized. 16% focused on the roof. 11% of the people that were interviewed claimed they focused on the trees. 11% focused on a path leading up to the house. And finally, 21% said they focused on either the left or right windows.  The younger people were the less predictable they were. People in the 8-18 range chose way different stuff than we expected.

Final Analysis: 


Abstract analysis: One day after the experiment, and it was the smoothest and easiest of all the types of art. The results speak for themselves.

(About) 68% of people saw the face or circle thing, which lines up perfectly with our hypothesis. That means 13 out of 19 peopled saw the face.

(About) 16% of people saw the tenticles

witth the remaining 16% seeing the coloured body


Notice: These people focused on these parts of the drawing, but that does not mean they didn't look at or notice any other parts of the picture. 


Conclusion: For realism, just below 50% focused on the man's face, which was one of our predictions and in architecture, 42% focused on the door. And in abstract 69% focused on the "face" in the middle. So over all, what we have learned in these forms of art and applied to our own is collectively effective, and we were able to persuade a large percentage of our participants into focusing on what we predicted they would see.


These studies apply to real life in many different situations, whether you're making art, admiring it or just noticing it as you walk by, stop and notice the movement of your eyes across the work. The more you stop to notice, the more you can understand and appreciate art. Look at a building, that's architecture. Look for curves, or sharp points or patterns. Apply everything you have learned in this presentation and you will get a better and more in-depth outlook on life.

Sources Of Error

1) Since this is on paper the human eyes will look first in the top left, then in the middle, that may vary the responses.

2) People may say that they look in one spot but it may be different than hypothesised. It's just a guess.

3) It is sometimes hard to contact each other over computers or phones.

4) We will have to social distance from the participants.


I acknowledge the participants for signing up to view the art and provide valuable feedback.

I acknowledge my parents for helping me through certain parts of the project.

I acknowledge my partner for helping with the research, writing and testing of the project.