Eye Lines Guiding The Viewer in Illustration


Artists and illustrators use tricks which tell the viewer where to look. Since humans tend to naturally follow the gaze of others, one focusing trick is to create eye lines all pointing to the focus of the work.

In the Norman Rockwell image below, the viewer’s eye is drawn straight to the dog. Notice how Rockwell does this. Almost every single character is looking at the dog, except for one guy who is looking at us and pointing to the dog. The characters looking at the dog also form a circle arond the dog, placing the dog at centre of that circle, though not at the mathematical circle of the artwork. (Compositionally, that wouldn’t look good.)

Rockwell has also utilised various examples of ‘pointing’. A boy’s violin case also seems to point towards the dog. An artist uses his paintbrush. Even the postie is holding something that seems to point to the dog. (I can’t work out exactly what it is, but that doesn’t matter.)

Norman Rockwell Road Block - Issue of The Saturday Evening Post alley way
Norman Rockwell Road Block – Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Fur die moderne hausfrau from 'Stern', 1965
Fur die moderne hausfrau from ‘Stern’, 1965
The Schoolgirls’ Own Annual 1930
The Schoolgirls’ Own Annual 1930 “all for a good cause”
W. Clackens for 'Lillie' by Harris Merton Lyon in McClures Magazine 1909
W. Clackens for ‘Lillie’ by Harris Merton Lyon in McClures Magazine 1909
Robert Fawcett (1903 - 1967)
Robert Fawcett (1903 – 1967)
Robert Fawcett (1903 - 1967)
Robert Fawcett (1903 – 1967)
Barbara Shermund 1947 (Esquire Magazine)
Barbara Shermund 1947 (Esquire Magazine)
Japanese fairytale deer
Japanese fairytale deer
Children’s Bible Stories
illustration from Minn of the Mississippi, written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling (Houghton Mifflin, 1951)
illustration from Minn of the Mississippi, written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling (Houghton Mifflin, 1951)
Antonio Lupatelli (1930 - 2018) pseudonym Tony Wolf eye line
Antonio Lupatelli (1930 – 2018) (pseudonym Tony Wolf).
Louis Wain Annual 1914. Published by John F Shaw & Co
Louis Wain Annual 1914. Published by John F Shaw & Co
Václav Sivko, Illustration from Modern Tales and Fables, 1967 1967
Václav Sivko, Illustration from Modern Tales and Fables, 1967 1967
The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there … ?

What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.
Fritz Baumgarten (1883 ~ 1966) ‘Easter Egg Hunt’
Fritz Baumgarten (1883 ~ 1966) ‘Easter Egg Hunt’
Amos Sewell (American, 1901-1983) Backyard Dog Show 1950
Amos Sewell (American, 1901-1983) Backyard Dog Show 1950
Alice Bolingbroke Woodward (English, 1862-1951) from The Peter Pan Picture Book based on the play by JM Barrie, 1907
Alice Bolingbroke Woodward (English, 1862-1951) from The Peter Pan Picture Book based on the play by JM Barrie, 1907
The Village Club, from 'The Jungle Book', by Rudyard Kipling by Charles Maurice Detmold 1903
The Village Club, from ‘The Jungle Book’, by Rudyard Kipling by Charles Maurice Detmold 1903
Weird Tales v03n04 (1924-04)
Weird Tales v03n04 (1924-04)
illustration by James Bama for Countdown For Cindy by Eloise Engle, book cover
illustration by James Bama for Countdown For Cindy by Eloise Engle, book cover
Henry Lerolle - The Organ Rehearsal 1888
Henry Lerolle – The Organ Rehearsal 1888
John Patience - The Little Mermaid
John Patience – The Little Mermaid
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky by Fritz Eichenberg 1938 wood engraving
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky by Fritz Eichenberg 1938 wood engraving
Milo Winter (1888-1956) The Ugly Duckling
Ivan Gantschev eye line
Ivan Gantschev
Mabel Lucie Attwell 1910 eye line
Mabel Lucie Attwell 1910 eye line
Marc-Simont-illustration-for-The-Happy-Day-by-Ruth-Krauss-1949-accent-colour
from In Fairyland A Series of Pictures from the Elf-World, by Richard Doyle, 1870
from In Fairyland A Series of Pictures from the Elf-World, by Richard Doyle, 1870
DER ROTE VOGEL FELIX (1975) Marie Sarraz canon
DER ROTE VOGEL FELIX (1975) Marie Sarraz canon
Christmas card by Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992)
Christmas card by Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992)
John Patience - The Snow Queen
John Patience – The Snow Queen
Argosy All Story Weekly September 11, 1926 Vintage Pulp Magazine
Argosy All Story Weekly September 11, 1926 Vintage Pulp Magazine
Joseph Clark - A Christmas Dole
Joseph Clark – A Christmas Dole
Ute Simon - The Snow Queen. The dogs are looking at the main characters.
Ute Simon – The Snow Queen. The dogs are looking at the main characters.
Garth Williams from The Tall Book of Make Believe, 1963
Garth Williams from The Tall Book of Make Believe, 1963
Ute Simon - The Snow Queen
Ute Simon – The Snow Queen
Pruett Carter (1891-1955)
Pruett Carter (1891-1955)
Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978) - Homecoming Marine (1945) eye line
Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978) – Homecoming Marine (1945) eye line
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner's 1940 eye line
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner’s 1940 eye line
Illustration by Louis Darling (1916 - 1970) for Henry and the Paper Route, 1957. Part of the Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary
Illustration by Louis Darling (1916 – 1970) for Henry and the Paper Route, 1957. Part of the Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary
The Nonsense Verse Of Edward Lear Illustrated By John Vernon Lord 1984 eye line
The Nonsense Verse Of Edward Lear Illustrated By John Vernon Lord 1984
Dorothy Lathrop, American (1891-1980) The Fairy Circus 1931
Dorothy Lathrop, American (1891-1980) The Fairy Circus 1931
The Lark by George Henry oil on canvas, 1926
The Lark by George Henry oil on canvas, 1926
Lemon girl young adult novella

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