Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Everything Points To The Focal Area

Noonday Rest    9x12    0il
This is one of the paintings I did during the recent Plein Air competition in Marble Falls, Texas.  I'm going to use it to say a little about some of the things I was trying to apply from John Cosby's workshop. Too much to cover in this one post, but I'll touch on more points in following posts.  I do this as much for myself, as I do in hopes that it will be useful for some of you.  Organizing my thoughts about these things is one of the best ways to work them into my own habits.

When we're standing outside, confronting a scene that we're thinking of interpreting as a painting, it's a good idea to keep in mind that there's just way too much information provided in nature for us to possibly deal with.  We need to develop a kind of mental/visual filter that begins to focus on the one thing we want to say about the scene.  That's usually going to lead to identifying something that will become the focal area of the composition.  This is primary!  Before we begin to draw, arrange shapes, put down values, or mix color, we need to know what is the motive for doing this painting.  What is the one thing around which we're going to organize everything else?  If you do this, you stand a good chance of making a strong painting, and your compositional skills will grow with purpose.  Don't do it and you'll probably end up with confusion and nothing to hold the viewers attention.  Here's a related tip.  Once you've selected what will dominate the focus of the painting, don't bother painting anything that may draw attention away from it.  Leave it out!  And then, with what is to be included, don't bother painting anything you can't clearly distinguish when you're squinting at the scene. We're in the entertainment business, and every painting needs a star of the show, and a great supporting cast.

Enough said.  If you're interested in this approach, and would like some ideas about how you can apply it, then a picture can be worth a thousand words...if you know what you're looking for.  Please, examine my humble effort for how I applied this thinking.  Here's some hints:
What is the obvious focal area of this painting?
What makes it so obvious?
Where is the greatest contrast of dark and light in the painting?
Where are the hardest edges?
Where is the color brightest?
Where is the most detail?
Can you see how the surrounding lines and shapes work to point you to the focal area?
(hints: notice the stairway, the movement of the tree trunks, the directional flow of the light and dark shapes surrounding the focus)

You get the idea.  There are more things at work here that play up the focal area.  How can you use them in your own paintings?

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