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Author Topic: Rembandt's skills  (Read 3530 times)
Justan
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« on: September 24, 2011, 10:33:54 AM »
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I found an interesting article at another site. The article is titled “Rembandt and Eye Tracking.” http://eyetrackingupdate.com/2010/06/11/rembrandt-eye-tracking/

The article discusses the sophisticated techniques that Mr. van Rijn used to guide the observer around the image. They attribute these techniques to the long lasting appeal of his works.

Of course those who have studied his works know of his the great ability to capture the human condition.

Was is the broader skill in portraiture that made his works so compelling or the tactics he used to guide the viewer, or both?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2011, 11:02:21 AM »
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Fascinating! Thanks for posting the link.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2011, 12:53:18 PM »
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+1
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Patricia Sheley
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2011, 05:58:53 PM »
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Quiet koans for guided meditation?  Ties to practicing the patience of waiting long enough for the deeper presence to come to your focal plane..
 Thanks for this post...
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2011, 12:00:38 PM »
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This is part of the whole concept of composition, is it not?  By using any of a variety of techinques, individually or in combination, we guide the viewer through an image.  The article actually uses the term 'vanishing point' which is just one method of creating a composition.  Areas of sharpness and other less sharp areas are well known to drive a viewer's attention. 
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Justan
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2011, 09:08:22 PM »
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Quiet koans for guided meditation?  Ties to practicing the patience of waiting long enough for the deeper presence to come to your focal plane..
 Thanks for this post...

An eloquent choice of words.

A lot of recent study is going into scientifically analyzing what many masters did as well as other related studies that showing how the eye moves around 2d imagery.

Even without a Zen master, one can still hope to eventually see a bird in a tree.
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Justan
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2011, 09:12:29 PM »
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This is part of the whole concept of composition, is it not?  By using any of a variety of techinques, individually or in combination, we guide the viewer through an image.  The article actually uses the term 'vanishing point' which is just one method of creating a composition.  Areas of sharpness and other less sharp areas are well known to drive a viewer's attention. 


All true. Do you think these details make the composition or only serve as frosting on the cake, so to speak?
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2011, 06:42:16 AM »
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No, a poor composition ruins an image be it a photograph or a painting or a sketch or whatever.  So far more than just frosting on the cake.  The guidelines we use; whether consciously or subconsciously, are what make a composition.  Vanishing point, depth of field, selective focus, rule of thirds, leading lines, golden mean, s-curve, perspective and others.  Those are what create a composed image.

I'm not sure that a scientific study was needed to discover these things or that the fellow at UBC has uncovered anything new or unique.  The guidelines of composition that we use today have been around for centuries and millenia.  Why?  Because they've been known to work.  I guess it could be said that some of the reasons why they work were less well known and this study helps provide some insight into that but even then I'm not really convinced.
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Justan
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 11:00:07 AM »
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> No, a poor composition ruins an image...  So far more than just frosting on the cake.  The guidelines we use; whether consciously or subconsciously, are what make a composition.  Vanishing point, depth of field, selective focus, rule of thirds, leading lines, golden mean, s-curve, perspective and others.  Those are what create a composed image.

But many great artists have made perfectly fine compositions without resorting to the kinds of nuances that Rembrandt did.

> I'm not sure that a scientific study was needed to discover these things or that the fellow at UBC has uncovered anything new or unique. 

Research shows that no one has addressed the topic previously as has been done here. Further, science has only begun to study elements such as how the eye reads visual compositions. If one wants to learn something about this, it makes sense to study many of the great masters of the trade as well as how others "read" their works.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2011, 11:46:47 AM »
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> No, a poor composition ruins an image...  So far more than just frosting on the cake.  The guidelines we use; whether consciously or subconsciously, are what make a composition.  Vanishing point, depth of field, selective focus, rule of thirds, leading lines, golden mean, s-curve, perspective and others.  Those are what create a composed image.

But many great artists have made perfectly fine compositions without resorting to the kinds of nuances that Rembrandt did.

There are many ways to compose a good image.  Whether the same techniques as Rembrandt are used or others is immaterial.  One can look at many of the great artists of the past and find the elements of good composition.  And those elements of good composition do exactly what Rembrandt's techniques did; they guide the viewer on a visual journey through the image.

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> I'm not sure that a scientific study was needed to discover these things or that the fellow at UBC has uncovered anything new or unique. 

Research shows that no one has addressed the topic previously as has been done here. Further, science has only begun to study elements such as how the eye reads visual compositions. If one wants to learn something about this, it makes sense to study many of the great masters of the trade as well as how others "read" their works.


I understand that no one has perhaps looked at it from this exact direction.  My point; however, is that it may not be necessary.  It's long been known that, for example, selective focus draws the viewer's eye to a particular area of an image; emphasising and deemphasising different elements of a piece.  As I noted earlier, the compositional tools we use today have been, for the most part, in use for millenia.  Why?  Because they work.  Why do they work?  Because there's, at the very least, an innate sense of what is pleasing to the eye.  It's also cultural.  Here in the western world, we read from left to right.  As a result, we're more comfortable with lines in an image that move from left to right and less comfortable with lines that move in the opposite direction.  In cultures where they read from right to left, the opposite is more often true.  These things have been know for millenia.  It's also natural.  The Golden Mean; of which many examples can be found in nture, has been in use in architecture since the days of Euclid.  Elements of it have also been found in ancient Greece and Egypt.  Many artists already 'make sense' of these things without the need for scientific study. 
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Justan
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2011, 11:06:29 AM »
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> There are many ways to compose a good image.  Whether the same techniques as Rembrandt are used or others is immaterial.  One can look at many of the great artists of the past and find the elements of good composition. 

To degrees I agree with this. Rembrandt was revolutionary in a number of ways. Unless one emulated his techniques (which many did), they would not be able to use the tools that were uniquely his discoveries.

> Because there's, at the very least, an innate sense of what is pleasing to the eye.

Is there? I think not. If there was, people wouldn’t have vastly differing opinions about what constitutes “art.” You can see countless proofs of that on this forum, and the world over.

>…. Many artists already 'make sense' of these things without the need for scientific study. 

While I agree that historically artists lead culture in innovation, the goal of art is primarily about results rather than providing analysis and explanation of technique. Except, of course in art schools or guilds. Since about the Renaissance, the growth of codified science has provided increasing impact in the realm of art.

> Here in the western world, we read from left to right.  As a result, we're more comfortable with lines in an image that move from left to right and less comfortable with lines that move in the opposite direction.  In cultures where they read from right to left, the opposite is more often true. 

Many believe this true but I recall from my kollege days that lots of scientific studies refute the theory that reading directional preference plays a significant role in art comprehension or preference.

> Many artists already 'make sense' of these things without the need for scientific study. 

Agreed, but how many more can ‘make sense’ given definitive guides?
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DougJ
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2011, 11:44:32 PM »
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Vincent Versace, photographer, speaks about the behaviour of "the unconscious eye," i.e., what the eye sees first, or hwere the eye "goes" first, in that first instant of looking at an image.  The conscious eye, i.e., the editorial eye (my phfase) takes over in the second and ensuing instants.   Vincent may not have coined the phrase, the unconscious eye, and he certainly did not do the research work that leads to the following general principles (in the following descending order of control over the unconscious eye:

1.  the eye will go first to where patterns are interrupted.

2. from light to dark

3. from high contrast to low

4. from high sharpness to low (which is not the same as #5)

5. from in-focus to out-of-focus (1.e., blur, think depth of field)

6. from high saturation to low.

His point is that in the post-processing workflow you can use these principles to control where in the image the viewer's first glance goes, and the route it takes thereafter.

Ciao,

Doug


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Nick Rains
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« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2011, 01:16:27 AM »
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1.  the eye will go first to where patterns are interrupted.

2. from light to dark

3. from high contrast to low

4. from high sharpness to low (which is not the same as #5)

5. from in-focus to out-of-focus (1.e., blur, think depth of field)

6. from high saturation to low.

His point is that in the post-processing workflow you can use these principles to control where in the image the viewer's first glance goes, and the route it takes thereafter.

Ciao,

Doug

A useful list, thanks, but it is missing at least one major attractor, the human figure and specifically the eye which generally dominates all tonal cues. Also, I think that the eye tends to follow dark to light not the other way around.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2011, 10:47:10 AM »
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...but it is missing at least one major attractor, the human figure and specifically the eye which generally dominates all tonal cues.

Hear, hear! Exactly, Nick.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2011, 02:38:53 PM »
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Nick, I think if you do a bit of Googling about it you'll find that the eye is drawn first to bright areas.  This is why an image, of whatever type, that has strong, overly bright areas will generally be criticised for those.  Because the eye goes there first and then continues to be drawn to those areas to the exclusion of other areas.

Justan, I'm not disputing the validity of Rembrandt's techniques.  What I'm saying is that they're already well known and that these types of scientific studies aren't needed to make them well known.  

With respect to an innate sense of what is pleasing to the eye, I'm talking in generalities.  There are certain genres that don't really follow any of the known compositional cues or guidelines.  The Abstract Expressionists, for example.  Pollack, Frank, Koonig, Newman.  Much of their work was really without any regard to traditional composition.  So sure, when you get works like those that are so far out of the 'norm' there's going to be a fair debate about the validity of the works as art.  Why?  Because to a lot of people those types of works aren't pleasing to the eye.  As a photoimpressionist photographer, I'm more than a little familiar with that debate.  Grin  Even if some form of 'accepted' compositional tools are used, the subject matter of a piece may be offensive to some.  That doesn't have anything to do with the composition but there may still be debate about the validity of the work as art.  Plenty of reasons beyond the concepts of composition for there to be debate about what is or isn't art.

As far as directional lines, I've seen writings in the past that support the position.  My own, informal, research supports the position as well.  I've taken the same image with lines leading from left to right then flipped it so the lines went from right to left and posted them for comment.  The majority, and not a small majority, of those of Western origin prefer the lines leading from left to right.  Definitive?  Probably not.  Anecdotally supportive?  I'd say so.

You quoted my comment "Many artists already 'make sense' of these without...." twice.  What are you referring to when you speak of 'codified science providing increased impact in the realm of art'?  But as far as 'definitive guides' go, there are already plenty out there.  There are countless guides on art composition to be found.  Hell I've got a few basic articles on my website.  Even then; however, I'm very wary of getting too scientific with the study because then we run the risk of everything looking essentially the same and art becoming a scientific, paint by numbers, insert figure A into position B and object C into position D exercises.  The measurebators here on LuLa already take the art of photography far too far into the science realm.  We run the risk of losing the innovators like the Impressionists or the Abstract Expressionists or the Cubists because everything just becomes bland and, for lack of a better term, Kincadeified.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2011, 08:51:32 PM »
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Interesting, thanks!

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2011, 10:23:12 AM »
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The best book I've read on how we see is this one:

http://www.amazon.ca/Vision-Art-Biology-Margaret-Livingstone/dp/product-description/0810904063

"Vision and Art.  The Biology Of Seeing"
Margaret Livingstone
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2011, 11:20:01 AM »
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Thanks, Peter.  Looks like a good one.  Just ordered it.
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