The Eye – As a Story Teller

by Alex Castro

 The way I see my miniatures is largely contributed to several experiences that have impacted the way I think about the eye. One such experience happened when I was a child. I would accompany my mother to the local fruit and vegetable market. As we entered the market I was always warned not to touch, but temptation was greater than my mother’s wrath. On one occasion, I started touching and squeezing all the beautiful fruits when a very old woman came out to scold me saying ”young man you must learn how to touch with you eyes and look with you hands.” This statement had a powerful impact on my imagination. Could the eye actually touch?

Years later as an art apprentice, I would often be subject to my master’s philosophy on art. He would say, “One must learn how to drink with one’s eyes, if one is to learn and absorbed the finer essence of art!! ”

Finally, I remember a famous painting by Frans Hal (1580?-1666) Holland, called the “Pipe Piper.” This painting depicted a Pipe Piper playing his flute as the rats followed him around. Hal seemed to have been visually running out of room in his composition, but he ingeniously corrected it by painting a hand in the form of a stop sign. I realized that Hal made me visually stop looking any further with the painted hand! The aforementioned experiences led me to believe that as an artist “there is more to it than meets the eye.”

One of the areas that I have found most fascinating is not the eye itself but the way it behaves,its rules and priorities. Understanding this provided me with a frame of reference on how my miniatures would be perceived by my viewers.

The eye is indicative of motion, and is relentless in its pursuit to resolve flaws.
It follows a certain order of priorities. The eye is primarily a storyteller, searching for objects and events relating back to the human experience! Why is this important and how does this relate to figure painting?

Let’s take an example of a modeler who just finished a 1/48 -scale model plane. The plane does not contain a figure. The modeler takes the plane to his friends. In viewing the plane, the first thing his friends look for is the figure. (This may not be a conscious act.). From this point on, they move to the rest of the plane, but focus in areas that have an affinity with the human being like the cockpit . Interestingly, if the plane is done poorly but the cockpit is done well the eye has a tendency of forgiving this. The converse is not true.

Now the modeler introduces a figure. Immediately the plane becomes a prop for that figure and all eyes focus on the figure. The individual figure and the plane are elevated from a simple plane to a story. The eye is consistently searching for quality and realism. It endeavors to create an affinity with the human element to compose a story. There is another interesting observation here. Once there is a figure, the eye has a priority it uses to determine quality and realism. First, it focuses on the eyes, then the face. Then, if the figure is clothed it focuses on the hands followed by the rest of the body, feet being the last. However, the order of priority changes if the figure is nude. From the face the eyes go directly to the sexual organs. Internal organs supercede external organs and skin supercedes clothing. The eye speaks a visual language that speaks directly to the mind. There are three basic elements that define the visual language:

Human likeness-affinity.
The story, message-communication.
The Visual agreement -reality.

These three elements are essential and must be present in a well-painted figure.
In conclusion, the better painted the figure is, the more convincing its story, therefore, the restless eye is satisfied!

Written by Alex Castro (c)

Please note that these are personal observations and opinions not scientific fact.

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