Have you ever really thought about the way you look at a painting, a photograph, or even a scene in real life? Your eyes skip around. You don’t take it in all at once, or process it neatly top-to-bottom like a computer might. You jump from one element to another, your eye drawn by those shapes, colors, and contrasts that are most interesting, unusual, or surprising.
Not everyone’s experience of the same real-life scene is the same, of course. Perhaps you and a friend are looking at the same landscape. Your eye is drawn to a yellow tree in a sea of green trees. They are more interested in a duck that’s swimming on the lake. Each of you might paint a different picture of the same scene: yours might focus on the tree and not have a duck at all, and theirs might paint the duck in loving detail while reducing the trees to a hazy background.
As an artist, you can curate your viewer’s experience. You can lead their eyes to the parts of your painting that you find most interesting and meaningful. But to do that, you need to know yourself just what it is you’re painting. What’s the center of interest?