Jun 7, 2009
Shining Feather Lesson on the Focal Point
All paintings will have a center of interest, or “Focal Point” It may be a figure in a landscape, a vase full of flowers or one single flower. Physiologically a viewer will always look at the light areas first, and the center of interest is always in the light.
It will often be the area of the painting where the painter has concentrated the most work, delineating the main element of interest. Converging lines or shapes or sweeping curves lead the viewer’s eye to this point of interest. This focal point may be a brighter color or stronger contrast or more carefully painted than the surrounding area.
For that reason areas of less interest may be of a more subdued range of color, closer range of value and with edges less sharp.
You want to create a gradual transition from the Focal Point area to the background, if you over emphasize the Focal Point, you can create the bull's eye effect, and the viewer will lock onto this and have a difficult time traveling away from that area of the painting.
The bull's eye draws so much energy from the rest of the painting that it becomes a total distraction instead of a well-developed stronger area. It’s sort of like someone wearing bright red lipstick, your eyes are directed to that area and you don’t see the rest of the face.
In trying to make the focal point area stand out from the rest, it must be different, one of the best ways to help develop the Focal Point area of a painting is to think in terms of opposites.
A good rule of thumb is that the Focal Point area is usually predominately opposite in temperature to the background of the painting. If the background is cool, then the Focal Point will be easily recognized if you use hues that are warm or warmer than the rest! The Focal point should contrast with the background; this contrast will set it apart it from the rest of the painting.
You need to consider these characteristics when establishing the Focal Point:
Hue, value, intensity, texture. contrast, temperature, detail,
Hue – First you need to carefully plan what hues you want to use for the Focal Point. When you select the overall color scheme for the painting, you must consider if these colors that are chosen for the focal point, can be used in a different form in the painting, example can they be grayed to use in the background? Will they help to create the flow that is required to establish the harmony and balance within the painting as a whole?
If you are using a red color for the focal point, could you use it again somewhere else, either on another element or part of an element?
Value - the values of colors (how light or dark) they are, will be strongest in the focal point, any color that is used in this area will have its darkest values, along with the lightest used in this area. If you use these here, they cannot be used at the same level of contrast outside this range. If you used in the same equal value, it will not only create distracting areas, but they will compete with the Focal Point.
Intensity - The intensity (how dull or bright) of colors will be the strongest in the Focal Point area. You need to include both dull and vibrant colors within this area because one against the other will help to create the visual contrast that is necessary to set this part of the painting apart in visual interest.
Texture and Contrast – Using these two elements is very helpful in drawing the attention that the Focal Point needs. A smooth satin texture next to a rough one (opposites) will always draw attention to that area. That is why stripes and patterns get so much attention; it is the value between the stripes and the patterns that catches the eye of the viewer. If you paint a still life sitting on a blanket with stripes or delicate pattern, it would always be one of the first things that a viewer will see.
Temperature - The temperature of colors (cool or warm) as they relate to each other, is of greatest contrast here in the Focal Point. Temperature change between objects also helps to establish depth or space between objects. Cooler colors recede and warmer colors advance. Remember you are trying to create the illusion of space. If you have three apples sitting one in front of the other, they will get less red as they recede.
Detail - The detail is always the strongest on the focal point. You see all the little veins on the leaves; the edges are crisp, and sharp. The rest of the painting is just slightly out of focus, with soft and “lost” edges, but the Focal Point has the clarity of 20/20 vision. If everything was as sharp and detailed as the focal point, then the viewer would not know where to look, there would be no depth and the painting would look very jumbled, there would be no unity, it would basically be a bad painting.