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Submitted on
September 8, 2011


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Eye See, Therefore Eye Am

Journal Entry: Thu Sep 8, 2011, 7:07 PM

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die."


Every time we open our eyes in the morning as each new day breaks, two worlds flow forth, each penetrating into the other, as the celestial portal gate separating them is once again raised.  One’s inner world, of mind and being, pierces the outer world of light and raw data, seeking to hunt and gather mental sustenance.  The outer world floods into our minds like a data tsunami, seeking to reconfigure the secret landscape of last night’s perfectly crafted dream state.  Both worlds do battle to rearrange and make sense of the other.  It is the yin and yang, by which we create and recreate the world – and the world invades and recreates each one of us.  And the gatekeeper, in fact the very gate separating the two worlds we each inhabit, is the eyes.  Is it any wonder that the eyes themselves are the subject of so much art?

Eye See, Therefore Eye Am

By techgnotic

Even before humans figured out that the brain, rather than the heart, was the organ with which we do our thinking, there was the notion of the eyes being the key to knowing another’s true soul.  If only you were allowed to look deeply enough through those unshuttered windows, one could see into another’s true being.   I also recognize that to be truly “seen” by another can be an equally profound and penetrating experience. And so there has always been the centrality of the intensity, the beauty, the soulfulness of one’s eyes being a prime identifier of not only that person’s physical but spiritual being. Artists have forever known that the perfect capture of a subject’s eyes is the most important aspect of any portraiture.  It is in the representation of the eyes that the “story” of the person being portrayed is told either authentically or falsely.  The rest is back-story.

Experiment by Grant-Booysen
Matter of Time by dapper-owl
Steampunk Eye I by InfiniteCreations
Soul by XxLonerEyesxX

The elaboration of the eyes through artistic eye make-ups runs the gamut from simple daily mascaras and eyeliners to the most astonishing painting, beading and artificial lensing.  The eyes become an artwork in themselves – and then are photographed or drawn by an artist, becoming artworks that are the subject of other artworks.  It is as if the instruments by which we take in the world to interpret it to ourselves are as much a fascination to us as the actual data they enable us to gather.  So much of our art is a tribute to the eyes -- the eyes that are the very reason we can appreciate art in the first place.

Beyond the Importance of the Eyes

In our concept of primal beauty is the core notion of the eyes in our concept of mystery, of our need to decipher hidden information.  And so the eyes are so ubiquitous in our symbology.  From the back of a dollar bill to the sacred insignia of just about every religion or cult imaginable, you’re always sure to find an all-seeing eye.   Even a “third eye” is invoked as the key to all knowledge.  Sinister all-seeing “Big Brother” eyes have been a symbolic  hallmark in movies from “Citizen Kane” to “Brazil” -- and let’s not forget to mention the “Eye Of Sauron.”  In “Bladerunner”, characters’ eyes are examined as the only way to distinguish true humans from android “replicants,” and eyes serve as a central motif throughout, emphasizing the fragile veil separating our perceptions of “reality” and non-reality.  

On the other hand, much of our art reflects the eyes as a positive symbol of our eternally seeking truth, beauty and enlightenment.

Earthy Eyes by MotleyLovel
Stars in your eyes by ftourini
eye of a predator by ftourini
Talking eyes by 19SaRaH92

The Real and the Mythical

That is the conundrum of the eyes, of those “second star to the right” portal gates separating the two worlds – the “real” and the “mythical”, the world of the Inner Being and the world of the Outer Data Storm.  Art is compelled to explore both.  There is the artists’ impulse to capture the eyes of others, to record their beauty and magnetism, from the perspective of every human being’s condition of being forever “outside” all others, looking in.  And in so doing achieve the impossibly rare but hopeful capture of a momentary remedy to the feeling of being alone in this world. And then there is the impulse to illuminate, often employing symbolism, sometimes as if painting with one’s own “third eye,” what it is to be forever locked in one’s own inner being, alone and looking out, trying to decipher the universal mysteries.  In either case, Art will always seek to tell the story of our eyes, probably because, as Mark Twain so rightfully said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

"You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
—Mark Twain


Questions for the Reader:

  1. Are the eyes always the most powerful and compelling element of any photograph or other artistic representation of a human figure?  Or can nudity, striking costuming or background effects overpower and diminish the primacy of the subjects’ eyes?
  2. Do you think elaborate eye make-ups can accentuate or spotlight the actual “essence” of an individual’s eyes – or are such creations only distractions or separate “messages” masking the true message in the subject’s eyes?
  3. What is about animals’ eyes that inspires so much artwork? Is it because of the connection that can be felt through the eyes that makes verbal communication unnecessary?
  4. Is the artist’s “exaggeration” of a subject’s eyes (making them larger or intensifying their color, etc) a legitimate form of poetic license?

  1. What are your nominations for most amazing representations of eyes:
    • Single eye or pairs of eyes in close-up.
    • Eyes in a portrait of a face.
    • Animal eyes.
    • Symbolic eyes.
    • Cartoon eyes.

Questions for Louis Schwartzberg:


Are you ever truly satisfied that a visual moment captured by your camera technology is equal to the vision of that moment as experienced through your own eyes?  Or is the continuing desire to capture what cannot ever be captured - a moment seen through your eyes - the important thing?  Is the essence of vision its inducement to want to infinitely see what's next?


For me it is like trying to catch a wave. You first have to be in the right place and time and anticipate the light and all the variable elements to capture the magic moment. And with the experience of knowing the tools of cinematography I try to enhance, compress, refocus, and intensify the emotional feeling I had at the moment I squeezed the trigger. The end result can be better than what the eye sees, because with additional post processing I continue to enhance the image and focus the emotional feeling into a purer and more intensive expression of the original visual moment.

The Golden Gate to Heaven by louieschwartzberg
On the Path by louieschwartzberg

Add a Comment:
M-G-Studio Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
HA! Reptilian eye slightly hidden, nice touch :P
GisaPizzatto Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Featured: [link]
meihua Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2011
Great article, with a wonderful variety of eye art to go with it :D
tbn8r Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
An incredibly thought-provoking article. This has certainly placed the way I look at anything in a truly different light, and has inspired me to look at every object in a new way and to represent things in different ways than they appear. Thank you for the post
techgnotic Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2011
Thank you for that very kind compliment. Our perception of the world around us should always be in motion.

Hydra is my favorite of your works so far. Keep up the great work.
tbn8r Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
Hey, no problem. Glad you like the hydra! I'll always keep at it, don't you worry.
TanteiKIDFan13 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Wow, this made me think. Excellent article. As to the questions, a lot of things can distract from the central piece of any artwork. Certain things simply detract from a piece but others can make everything seem vibrant and allow people's eyes to gain a look that they couldn't without that stuff.

That's why some eye make-up looks incredible and takes your breath away but some just looks overdone. People obsess over eyes. That's why so many people are scared of going blind or anything happening to their eyes. The fact that an animal's eye seems so exotic draws people to it and they want to capture it.

An artist can do as they please and make things look wonderful. Sometimes though, they fall flat. Anyways, personally, I like eyes when there isn't much else around them or when they are symbolic/animal eyes. Those are the type of eyes I enjoy looking at.

Some people are really good at reading things through other's eyes and some are simply not. Eyes can say so many different things though from sad, tearful eyes to wide, surprised eyes to narrowed angry eyes. It's rather amazing.
Axel230 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Incredible article, I can't believe that at times we get so deep into our artistic expressions that we forget the importance of the eyes themselves.
Amazing! The quality of the prose used in this article, as well as the strength and beauty of it, gives me the chills. I was taken back for a moment.
Shadowblackwolf5 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
MechaTurles Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2011  Student General Artist
As usual I had to brace myself for this with some intense psychological preparation, and my what a colourful vocabulary!

It's true that the eyes are one of the ways in which you can decipher a person's inner thoughts, and that's exactly the reason for the unsettling feeling around someone whose eyes you can't see. Think about it, the traditional 'government agent' look- dark suit, dark demeanour, but importantly: dark glasses. There is no way of telling what they (or who they...!) are looking at, let alone what they are feeling.

In order to save myself (and my wrists) from quoting the journal entry above, I shall give Techgnotic a hearty thumbs up, and agree with everything.:thumbsup:

But it seems this entry only covers the 'lighter' side of eyes. What about the eeriness and discomfort from a subject whose eyes cannot be seen? The mind must stray from the default and study body language and other features instead to decipher the subject's emotions. An unsettling experience if you aren't prepared for it...:fear:

...and the sun comes out from behind the clouds! Phew. Sorry about that. Now what I'm about to to is incredibly controversial but this is a link to one of my pieces...:faint:which may explain some of my ramblings from moments ago: [link]

Well, at least you've explained the depth of your avatar/icon Techgnotic! These are incredibly philosophical entries, and with these literacy should write a book!

Nevertheless, fantastic once again! Keep 'em comin'! :thumbsup:
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