There has been a great deal of work done on searching data. Look up data searching on Google and prepare to be geeked out. One of these methods is a random walk. The data is sampled in a random way to see if it is correct or to find a particular record. In unordered data this can be shown to be faster than a sequential search. Analysis of how we look at a picture or reality looks to me like a random walk.
We land on a location, observe it until it resolves into something then move on to another location. We keep doing this until we form a mental image. When I’m working on a painting I do this until I find an area that needs work. It’s not actually random. I look for places that don’t make visual sense and those are the areas that I work on. I’ve trained myself to accept a level of uncertainty that, to me, makes the painting look like a painting, rather than an attempt at photo-realism.
I believe this is how most of us view reality; so how can an artist use this? I’ve been trying adding detail to various parts of a painting. The idea is to enhance the random walk that we do naturally. I don’t know that it’s actually working. As a result I do need to pay more attention to the main point of interest in the painting; it can change as I’m adding detail to various areas. As someone is looking at the painting their eye will land on an area and pause until it resolves into something, then move on. The trick is to add just enough detail so that resolution is quick but not so quick that it’s the same as reality. I’m not trying for a photo-realistic effect. I want the painting to give an illusion of reality. I really have no idea just how much detail this requires. I can only base it on my own experience and I bet it’s different that everyone else’s.