Focal points are the “start here” portion of your painting.
Remember that most paintings are spotted from 6 – 8 feet away, from across the room, so they need something to draw the viewer in to take a closer look. It’s like getting that special someone’s attention at a party by making eye contact.
Creating an effective focal point means understanding what attracts the human eye. Going back to our primitive roots for survival clues is really helpful.
Sparkles: Primitive humans were always in search of water for survival. Therefore out eyes are attracted to anything that resembles water, anything shiny. This is one of the reasons that I like to put water in my landscape paintings.
Primitive humans were also very sensitive to anything unique. This could signal danger or a new source of food. You can create a noticeable focal point by creating any of the following changes in your painting:
Shape: A pear in a bowl of green apples will be noticed.
- Color: The eye will notice a green leaf among a vase full of white flowers.
- Temperature: A cool color (such as green or blue) will stand out in a warm painting (mostly reds, oranges and yellows) Be careful to be subtle with this in most cases. In a mostly warm painting, adding a touch of blue to a warm color will “cool” it down enough to create a pleasing focal point and still maintain the overall harmony of the painting.
- Size: The viewer will notice an apple among grapes and strawberries, even if the colors are similar.
- Texture: A fuzzy knit blanket hanging over a hard, wooden rocking chair on a hardwood floor will become the focal point.
- Position: Placement of an object also affects whether or not it will be the focal point of a painting. See the article on placing objects for more information.
- Eyes: Eyes are the window of the soul and are almost always the focal point of a painting featuring humans or animals.
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