RPS 205 art students learn: It’s all in the eyes

Charcoal drawing by Laura Hintzman of Guilford High School

Charcoal drawing by Laura Hintzman of Guilford High School

There on the website for How Stuff Works was the piece on why the eyes in paintings seem to follow you.

I resorted to a Google search to figure out why some artwork in the Jan. 12 opening of the All-City Art Exhibit stuck with me. In particular, I kept feeling the sidelong stare of Laura Hintzman’s self-portrait. And just when that image had faded, it was replaced by the numb look in the eyes of one of Britania Moreno’s subjects.

The works of Moreno, a senior at Jefferson High School, and Hintzman, a senior at Guilford High School, were among more than 300 pieces of artwork in the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 21 at three downtown Rockford locations: Octane, 124 N. Main St.; J.R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 N. Main St.; and Ascension Art Studio, 323 W. Jefferson St.

Six Rockford Public Schools are represented in the show: Auburn, East, Jefferson, Guilford, Roosevelt and Wilson ASPIRE. If you would like a preview, see an RPS 205 video slideshow.

As for why the eyes in some paintings seem to follow you (think the Mona Lisa), it’s about the interplay of shadow, light and perspective. The talent of capturing that can carry over into other areas of the arts: Guilford senior Gretchen Stark, who has several pieces in this year’s art exhibit, is a first-company dancer with the Rockford Dance Company. The talent can exist alongside other seemingly dissimilar disciplines: 2016 Jefferson High School graduate Demetrius Markham, a former All-City Art show exhibitor, is studying engineering and art on full scholarship at the University of Michigan.

Lisa Doll, who teaches art at Guilford, trains students to focus on what is in front of them and not what they think they see. For self-portraits, she has them start in front of mirror. She tells them if they see a reflection, “draw it.  If they don’t, then don’t.”

While the skill can be learned from a photograph, it’s best learned from observation, according to Doll. Think of it this way: The artists watch so their artwork can watch. Constantly. 

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.



  1. Colleen Holmbeck


  2. Colleen Holmbeck

    Thanks Mary for your latest Blog. It’s so encouraging to read good news about the arts in Rockford schools and these stories about specific artists are great. I talked to a retired music teacher from the district who told me that she was so pleased with the music program in both the middle and high schools and she hadn’t always felt this way. We’re out of town now but I still want to have lunch — perhaps when the cold and snow is gone. Colleen

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