(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I only do Eyes...

I have had a fascination for eyes for a very long time. As a child, I used to doodle eyes. I realised a while ago that, when I do a drawing of a face, I spend a lot of time on the eyes; if I can’t get the shape of the eyes right, then the likeness is not there. Many of us will look a person in the eye when we meet them. In photography,  a good portrait will have the eyes in crisp, clear focus. It draws you in and holds you.

The saying goes “the eyes are the windows to the soul”.  You can tell if someone is truly smiling by looking at the creases that form around the eyes; fake smiles (unless the person is very good at faking) do not usually have the tell-tale crinkles.  Eyes can sparkle when we are in love. (the pupil enlarges also when we are aroused). There is a lot we can learn about someone by looking at their eyes.

One of my favourite ink drawings is just ‘eyes’.  I used to run a SF fanzine, back in the late 80s and early 90s, this was the banner picture. It is still one of my favourite pictures.  This picture is available on t-shirts at my Redbubble shop.

When I have a craving to draw and I can’t think of a subject, I find myself doodling eyes. This is one of my ink doodles, studying different eyes and lid shapes, inspired by the many studies that Leonardo da Vinci did on various body parts.

As my long term readers may have gleaned, my alter-ego and part-time profession is an optometrist. I had not realised my fascination with eyes when I had decided to go to university to study optometry… but it all makes sense. Since late last year however, I have been off on stress leave, resulting from some issues at work. I have not doodles eyes for quite some time.

It had been painful to think about anything related to the subject of work but I am finally crawling out of my funk. Not long ago, I wrote a short story called An Eye for Detail,  now published on the Australian Literary Review website.  I had not intended to write it; I actually had another story in mind. But, as often is my imaginations want, it wrenched me in a different direction.

I had read an article on Jack the Ripper- I had not known previously that Scotland Yard had made an optogram ( a photograph that tries to capture the last visual image seen by a deceased’s eye before a violent death). An idea popped into my head. I had to run with it. I had no choice! Before long, I had a heroine who started out as an optician in the late 1800s. After some historical research, I had to make her an ophthalmologist or have reset the story a few decades later. This was not an option, as the story had to be set before the Jack the Ripper case.

At first, I was very apprehensive (and a tad anxious) in writing the story about the subject of eyes. In the end, it was my experience as an optometrist, that helped my descriptions and without it, the story would not have been the same. The process proved to be very cathartic and I am much happier about drawing eyes again … and about returning to work. Seven months ago, I would not have been able to pen this post. Without writing, I would be lost.

Looking back over the past 9 months, I have realised that, subconsciously, I have still been fixated with eyes.  My Logo says it all.


I only do Eyes...


  1. My ancestor who fought against Napoleon's armies (in Egypt!) applied for discharge based on loss of vision in one eye from opthalmia, and it was affecting his other eye. He'd been in the army almost 30 years from age 11.

    Eyes *are* fascinating.

  2. that is so unlucky! :(
    There is also a sort of eye thingy (technical term!) in the latest steampunk short story I am writing now.