I’ve seen a lot of eye-tracking results. My company owns an eye-tracking system that can even track the eye movement while you watch a movie. It’s fun to compare what people say they saw and what they actually watched. Many liberals turn out to be hypocritical racists (they prefer watching athletes of their race saying they were looking at the athletes of the other race) and most men turn out to be male chauvinist pigs because regardless of what they say they watched, their eyes were glued to the cleavage, the legs, the lips. But I don’t think that comes out as a surprise, really. People working in media know this for a fact. As the editor-in-chief of a top-title fashion magazine once told me, the secret to sales was to put a large pretty face, sensual lips, flaring nostrils, the word “sex”, and yellow colour on the front page.
Some day I hope to show the pics for the funniest “outcomes” of eye-tacking exercises, but for now I want to talk a bit about a barren landscape which many viewers enjoy watching despite there’s nothing to enjoy there. “Enjoy watching” may not be a correct term to describe it though. Well, they do watch, but many emerge from this experience with feelings far from simple passive pleasure.
Here it is, have a look for yourself. Very limited palette, no waterfalls, no nice trees or rivers, just a grey asphalt road cutting through fields, barren as in a postapocalyptic movie (before Mel Gibson makes an appearance).
The secret of magnetism of this landscape is the number 3.The rhythm of this landscape is built around THREE. One-two-three, one-two three, one-two three. Waltz for the eyes.
Three horizontal parts:
Three vertical parts:
Triple movements on each side:
With a bit of the fourth on the right hand side, which is there for a very special purpose.
All this makes your eye travel from the bottom to the top of this picture, in the rhythmic manner of a Waltz. The beauty of this waltz is that you still have the power over where exactly you want to be taken.
Some eyes travel along the road. It is the easiest way, actually, greatly helped by the movement built into the field on the left side of the road, and the first two “steps” on the right side of it. You know what to expect there. More road. It is predictable, safe, practical and you’d keep your feet dry and warm. You stay within the known civilization. But some people (who turn out to be somewhat more adventurous persons than the first kind, even if deep inside) wander off towards the right.
That’s risky. You don’t know what’s there. As you reach the frame, you bump into a snow bulwark that’s not present anywhere else in the picture. Would you have to climb it? What’s behind it? Lots of snow in your boots, definitely, perhaps some danger, but what about the reward?
You see, clever rhythm can do wonders in a very simple landscape, with nothing to really enjoy inside it.
Another landscape by the same artist:
Now, it’s easy to say there are four dark and three white stripes that create horizontal rhythm. It is also easy to spot the staccato of the planks. But I’m sure to have explained something today, if you can understand the role of the big tree.
What is the role of the tree? Think about that. Tomorrow, I’ll post here my answer, but I’d love to hear yours.