Cognitive Daily has a fantastic piece on a eye-tracking study looking at how artists and non-artists look differently at visual scenes.
The study concluded that artists spend more time looking at areas of the visual scene that the rest of us pass over as less important.
So why do artists look at pictures — especially non-abstract pictures — differently from non-artists? Vogt and Magnussen argue that it comes down to training: artists have learned to identify the real details of a picture, not just the ones that are immediately most salient to the perceptual system, which is naturally disposed to focusing on objects and faces.
Ocean was also put in a fMRI scanner while he drew, and his brain activation was compared to a non-artist. The study reported that Ocean had much greater activation in the parietal lobe – an area heavily implicated in visual and spatial abilities.
Link to CogDaily article ‘Artists look different’.