Volume 5 Issue 2 (2009)
Main Articles

Where to Begin? Eye-Movement When Drawing

Bryan John Maycock
Foundation Studies, NSCAD University, 5163 Duke Street, Halifax, CANADA
Geniva Liu
Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, CANADA
Raymond M. Klein
Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, CANADA
Published January 12, 2010
  • attention,
  • drawing,
  • observation,
  • interdisciplinary collaboration


For over a century, drawing from observation, at least at the introductory level, has been integral to many secondary and most post-secondary art school programs in Europe and North America. Its place in such programs is understood to develop an ability to see and interpret on a flat surface the real, three-dimensional world; this skill, in turn, provides support to related mental processes such as memory, visualization, and imagination. Where an artist looks when drawing from observation may not be arbitrary and can be observed, quantified, and analyzed. Our interest in examining the first few minutes of the drawing process takes its lead from the novice’s question, "Where should I begin?" Attempting to understand these first few minutes led to a collaborative study between art educators and cognitive-perceptual psychologists: the former interested in implications for practical pedagogy, the latter in applying expertise in eye movement and scientific methodology in service of a specific real-world question. The stated purpose of the study notwithstanding, contrasting histories and practices in art and science provided contexts for discussion beyond the collection and interpretation of data. This article seeks to report upon and further that discussion.