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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Art and Focal Points

Most art has one focal point that attracts your eyes. I am working on a still life painting that has apples and an old bowl. What attracted me to the subject was the ancient handle on the bowl; this will be my focal point. Artists from other eras would use the Golden Rule, a mathematical formula, to help place focal points. Today’s artists have generally moved away from this mathematical formula. I use a “tic tac toe” method. Think of the 4 lines used in tic tac toe on the canvas (support). I place my focal point on or close to a section where the vertical and horizontal lines cross (4 points). The artist tries to show entry or movement from each canvas edge (not corners) to the focal point. The distances between the focal point and the 4 canvas’ edges should vary. In the focal point, artists place the most detail and contrast. The focal area usually has the darkest dark and lightest light colors. It usually has the brightest color and hardest edges. Lines and shapes direct you to the focal point. While the focal point does not have to be on the right side of the canvas, many artists place the focal point on the right side. I mentioned in an earlier article that since most people read from left to right, your eyes usually enter a painting from the left and move toward the right. Artists vary from these rules. The next time you see a painting, squint your eyes. It is easier to see the lightest and darkest colors when you squint. Stop squinting and look at the painting; what attracts your eyes first? Where was your attraction area? Is it a focal point? If not why do you think the artist placed the focal point in another location?

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