The Eyes Have It

If, while arting, one chooses to portray a member of the Kingdom Animalia, chances are an eye or two will be necessary. Maybe even eight. No matter the number, a piece of art with eyes has arguably more potential for charm and emotion than other genres of art. I’m not ragging on landscapes or still lifes, but living things draw our attention and our hearts. It’s why the human figure is portrayed so often. It’s why we love our pet dogs and cats more than our houseplants (if we aren’t N, that is. He loves his Starfruit tree “Fwang” [yes, he named it] more than just about anything).

Whether of a person, a pet, or wildlife, art with eyeballs is tough. The eyes are the key. They are the conduit between the artist and the viewer; the soul of the art. If you get them right, nearly all other mistakes can be forgiven. And if you screw them up, then forget it. It won’t matter if everything else is perfect, the piece won’t work. That’s why some artists complete the eyes first thing, so if they screw up, they don’t have much to redo.

I don’t usually do the eyes first – in fact, I often leave them until the end. I love adding the soul to a piece by working on the eyes. Leaving them until the end keeps me motivated. Often I’ll think, “I’m nearly done, and this still looks like crap!” Then I fix the eyes and everything works. Some good examples of eyes that make the piece work, even though there are flaws in other areas:
Eyes that don’t really work, and bring the whole piece down:
At this stage, I seriously considered changing my skin tone to pallid deathly green and writing “BRAINS!” across the top in bright red. They’re all shiny from the flash, but even without that, I look like a zombie. After some good advice from WetCanvas and some plain old *looking*, I got them better. And yes, this is the dreaded self portrait in oils. It’s done enough, and I’m not opening those tubes again, ever (or until I forget that I hate them, which will probably be next week).
So, eyes matter. The few portraits I’ve done are of people and animals I knew well, or see every day. Their eyes were very familiar. After I got a few nibbles on portrait commissions, I wondered, would I be able to get their eyes right? I don’t even know these people! Hell, I can’t even get my own eyes right, and I see them every day. Maybe this time, I’ll do the eyes first.

3 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It”

  1. Megasaurus! I’m finally going to get off my butt and leave a comment, woo.
    First on the beer, even if I’m actually commenting on last weeks beer, the chocolate stout. We picked up some a month or so ago, and – it’s tasteriffic! Smooth, sweet, and stouty without any bitter whap in the teeth. Yummm!

    As for those pesky eyes… well, I’ll tell you the tale of “Why Kay draws a lot of pirates”. There I’ll be, drawing away. The general head part of the person is there, then I’ll go in and Get To It, and I usually do the eyes pretty early since the other parts of the face kinda fit in around them. I usually get the first eye down great, I mean damn near PERFECT. And then? The other eye? NOOooo, it’s not right. Just not right. So I’ll erase it and try again. And again. And again. Eventually I’ll even get desperate, and, figuring that since the first eye was perfect, just tracing it, flipping it, and putting it where the other one should be SHOULD work, right? RIGHT?! But no, it never does. By that time the paper would be so thin from all the erasing that trying one more time would mean erasing a hole right through if I got it wrong, so – eye patch. Yep. THAT solves it. And who wears an eye patch but supervillains and pirates? I don’t see any eye patches on your stuff, so you’ve done it right. It might be fun to be a pirate though, so what the hell, as long as you can do one eye right your stylin’!

  2. Kay-bot!

    Yeah, good beer, isn’t it? I’ve had enough beers whap me in the teeth to appreciate a gentlemanly one.

    Thanks for your pirate tale… it’s good to know I’m not the only one with eye woes. Mine tend to be equally defective, though.

    You could always stick to profiles or rear-side views. Sadly, most people only want profiles for mug shots.

    Don’t worry, the world needs more pirates. I may have to go draw one now… but what animal will it be? Flamingo? Cuttlefish? Aardvark? The possibilities are endless.

    And why does tracing never work? Gah!

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