Eye like you.
When a person is interested in something or someone, her-his pupils dilate. I discovered this fact somewhere along the way in my research about body language and the way that faces work. Once I found out about it, I started to see it everywhere—in the people I liked most (and who liked me!) as well as in fashion magazine faces and billboard models.
As it turns out, ad agencies have long capitalized on this quirk of human perception. They understood that if a person is attracted to an object or another person that she-he is looking at, that person becomes more appealing to observers. The engaged person is the engaging one: people are more inviting-looking when their pupils are larger.
I started applying this to my work, enhancing the pupils in my portraits.
The source image I chose for this portrait has Stephanie looking directly out the window. As you can see in the detail of the photo above, her pupils are small and less inviting than they might be due to the bright light she is facing. I corrected her pupils in the portrait, making a painting that might not be exactly true to the moment of our interview but which reflects more fully who Stephanie is.
In the case of this portrait, I changed much of the source image—everything from the light source to the attitude of the neck and head—in order to make Zan fit into the image of Babe Ruth that I was referencing. But, again, as part of creating a better likeness, I was sure to dilate the subject’s pupils.
Because of the contrast between the pupil and the iris, lighter colored eyes are easier to read. This can be an asset but it’s more often a liabily, giving rise to rather unflattering descriptions about eyes being “icy blue” and “steely grey” since a light-eyed person can’t easily hide a shrinking pupil.
Darker colored eyes tend to have an overall warmer feel to them, specifically because there’s less of a contrast between the pupil and the iris. Pupil size may only be noticeable to intimates who can get away with looking deep into a person’s eyes.
Nevertheless, I’ve given Jim’s eyes a bit of pupil boost in this portrait, emphasizing just how much fun he is to talk to!