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How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point

Focal Point in Art – How to Create Your Own Focal Point Paintings

Focal Point in Art – How to Create Your Own Focal Point Paintings

What is it that draws your attention first while analysing a painting? This is a very simplified definition of what an artistic focus point is. To be successful, every artist has to master this idea, since it is the focal point of every visual work. Let’s take a deeper look for a better grasp of the situation.

Can You Explain the Concept of an Artistic Focal Point?

This is a strategy used by artists in order to get exposure for their work. Often serving as the painting’s central focus, this section also plays a significant role in the composition. A work of art’s subject matter is often determined by its focal point. Therefore, before you even start painting, you should select what you want to highlight.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Public domain version of  Sandro Botticelli,‘s The Birth of Venus from Wikimedia Commons.

When discussing art, the concept of a focal point may also come up. Is this equivalent to a point of emphasis? While we’ve established what an artwork’s focal point is, the phrase “centre of attraction” means something somewhat different. This section of the artwork catches your eye for the same reason—curiosity—but in a different manner. It’s a captivating picture, usually of a person, animal, or commonplace item.

Faces and other humanoid figures are fascinating examples of nature’s artistic expression. So, you’re naturally drawn to them.

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In works of art, the main point often has more eye-catching visual elements, such as vivid colours or intricate patterns. These aspects of a painting are what first catch your attention. The focal point and the main point of interest should ideally be the same in order for a work to be successful. Some viewers may get bored if there are too many elements to focus on.

Understanding the Role and Function of a Focal Point

Perhaps you’re debating whether a focus point would look better smack in the centre or out to one side. Although you are free to do anything you want with your artwork, there are certain recommendations to keep in mind to get the greatest results. To direct the audience’s gaze, you must first indicate where it should go.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Georges Lemmen, Plage à Heist (1891), in the Public Domain and available on Wikimedia Commons.

Though it may be placed anywhere, the sweet spot for a focal point is often in the centre. Putting it dead centre is an option, although it might come out as forced or formal. As a result, it’s preferable to have the object of interest sit somewhat off-center.

The observer is not given any indication to look up, down, left, or right if the painting’s focal point is placed in the middle. If you shift it slightly to the left, though, the audience has room to the right. In a similar vein, shifting the focus to the right will lead the spectator to the left. It makes no difference whether you move it down, up, left, or right; doing so should inspire the spectator to do the same.

Keep in mind your audience; many cultures read from left to right, so that’s something to think about as well. Nonetheless, in certain cultures, it is traditional to learn to read from right to left. You should tailor your artwork to whomever will be seeing it.

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Adding a dash of colour in the incorrect spot might sometimes cause your focus points to move. If you are aware of when this occurs, you may make alterations to refocus attention.

The focal point of a painting is often the central subject matter in order to pique the viewer’s attention. The significance of the focal point of a work of art is often important to its interpretation. After deciding where to put the painting’s focal point, the artist must also adjust the colour values, tonal range, and other approaches to produce a finished, emotionally charged work of art.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
 Vincent van Gogh Wheat Fields with Cypresses (1889), oil on canvas, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Do not assume that viewers will naturally be able to identify what part of the artwork should be emphasised. The painting is successful if it engages the spectator and leads them on a trip. While it might be less work to begin with a single focus point, using many focal points can help guide the viewer’s eye around the canvas. In spite of the increased difficulty, this approach might lead to a more reflective experience when seeing the artwork as a whole. You may speed up the process by providing answers to these questions before you start painting.

  • For what reason was the artwork created?
  • Can you describe the painting’s central idea?
  • To what end are you working?

Origins of Artistic Center of Attention Devices

The evolution and development of art throughout centuries is remarkable. Art evolved from its first conceptualizations of basic notions such as lines, forms, textures, colours, and empty space to something more substantial by adding meaning, expanding upon its initial features, and demonstrating its excellence. Renaissance art shows improved proportions and perspective in comparison to mediaeval art’s flatness, exaggerated proportions, and lack of colours.

These days, artists may choose from a wide variety of approaches to painting. Examples of focus points in art are shown below.

Painting of a Young Woman Wearing a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, 1665

The pearl earring and the girl’s illuminated face make this one of his most recognisable works of art. The painting’s current title isn’t what it was called originally; it was modified to reflect the subject matter. According to some reviewers, the eyes are the most striking feature of a work.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Artist:  Johannes Vermeer,Date: 1665 Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons, Inc.

John Singer Sargent, Nighttime Dinner Scene, 1884

American artist John Singer Sargent was born in Italy and passed away in London. Many Londoners visited his studio since he was such a sought-after portraitist. The lady who is slightly off-center at the table is the painting’s main subject. The three lights that are properly positioned throughout the painting’s interior are also important features.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
John Singer Sargent A Dinner Table at Night (1884), public domain, through Wikimedia Commons.

Son of Man, by René Magritte, 1964.

This is an instance of an unconventional artistic focal point. Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte produced original works. There is speculation that the artist depicted himself in The Son of Man. A guy wearing an overcoat and a bowler hat stands in the centre of the artwork.

He is the foreground focus, standing next to a wall against a backdrop of water and clouds.

Unusually, the painting’s attention is drawn on the apple that floats in front of the figure’s face. The painting’s symmetry is deceptive; upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it is not quite perfect. Everything that meets the eye in this picture is a veil concealing something else.

Painting by Ilya Repin depicting Leo Tolstoy as a young man in 1887.

Ilya Repin, a painter from Russia who was really born in what is now the Ukraine, created this piece. The focus of the portrait is naturally on the subject’s face. The book on his lap, however, serves as a supplementary focus of interest.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887) by Ilya Repin; Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Painting by Ludovico Mazzolino from 1524 titled “Jesus at Twelve, in the Temple”

This incredible work was created by a Renaissance-era Italian painter who also created many other works. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the arms of the individuals in this artwork are guiding you to Jesus. The white robe serves as the painting’s main point, providing contrast and drawing the viewer’s attention to the centre of the work.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Painting of Jesus as a Twelve-Year-Old Teacher in the Temple (1524) by Ludovico Mazzolino; SailkoCC BY 3.0 through Wikimedia Commons

Tutorial on Painting with a Central Subject

There are three key characteristics that define a focus point: colour, contrast, and structure, form, and size. But, honestly, do you need a centrepiece? No, it’s not required, but it’s highly suggested; otherwise, the painting can wind up with no clear point or theme.

Therefore, there is no hard and fast rule stating that art must have a centralised subject. Not all painters use a focal point in their paintings. Some of Claude Monet’s works, like Irises in Monet’s Garden (1900) and Water Lilies (1916), are often cited as examples. The effects of light and impression are what he’s most concerned with here; there is no one focal point since the whole picture may be seen that way.

This, however, does circle back to the painting’s focal point, which it maintains consistently and which is responsible for its overall harmony.

You may use as many as four different points of emphasis if you choose. You may utilise one major focus point and additional accent focal points or points that are less demanding to reduce the amount of competition they play off one other, just as you would with more than one bright hue. Unfortunately, this may occasionally cause chaos, since there may be too many competing interests. So, for first, it’s preferable to stick with a single point of emphasis, and then experiment with adding additional as you acquire confidence and competence.

The focal point of a painting or other work of art is a crucial part of its overall composition. Each of these factors is then used to affect the viewer’s perception of the picture. The composition of the painting serves to define the focus of interest, which in turn may strengthen the picture as a whole. Let’s explore what you can do to make a point of interest in your artwork now.

Organizational Principles in Artwork

What is the composition of the artwork like? A painting’s composition is crucial in shaping the viewer’s experience of it. Think about lines that converge or lines that go somewhere. You may find a focus point by following a series of clues, such as roads, rivers, or the direction an item or person is facing. You can’t help but focus on the subject of attention while painting a scenario in which a person enters a room and all the other characters turn to look at them.

When composing a piece, you may apply the “rule of thirds” to split it into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The composition’s main elements are then added along the lines or at different convergences. The completed design will be more visually appealing, engaging, and dynamic.

Constructing Distinction

Contrast is something you’ll pick up on intuitively as you work with colours. The human visual system is wired to be drawn to areas of contrast, whether it be between colours or between light and dark. The topic of your work may be positioned in a high-contrast zone to emphasise the difference. In the same way, a circle added to a picture consisting largely of squares would seem out of place. If you have a painting with largely huge things and add one little one, the smaller object will draw attention and become the focus point.

Using Color to Create Visual Interest

Color contrast adds visual appeal because it draws the eye. Complimentary colours are those that appear opposite one another on a colour wheel. Consider a blue backdrop and a dish of oranges as an illustration.

Color temperature may also be a visual draw.

To the human eye, warmer colours like yellow, red, and orange stand out more sharply, whereas colder hues like blue tend to blend into the backdrop. So, hue, value, and saturation may all play a role in establishing a visual hierarchy and emphasising certain elements.

Accent on the Particulars; Pay Attention to Every Last Nuance

One’s point of focus might also affect one’s perspective. Your focus should naturally be drawn to the sharper, more defined parts of a picture or item rather than the fuzzier, less defined parts. An additional feature of a focus point is its attention to detail. The focal point of a painting is often the most elaborate and carefully crafted part of the whole thing.

Dimensions and Forms

A focus point may be created using factors such as size and form. Bigger things in a painting catch your eye more quickly than tiny ones. Further, forms may serve as highlights, such as a geometric shape amid organic ones.

If you want your picture or item to stand out even more, you may isolate a certain part of it.

The Strange in Art
We have previously discussed how the subject matter of a painting may serve as its primary focus. This can be a person, an animal, a structure, or anything else. A painting may include a person or an item, but then an odd detail is introduced. The comparison to the picture The Son of Man made above is apt. Immediately noticeable is the peculiarity of the apple.

How to Make Paintings with a Strong Center of Interest

A first-time painter might use a test to assess whether they are using focus points effectively. You need to shut your eyes for a moment and then open them slowly, paying attention to where your gaze is drawn as you look at the artwork.

Distractors, if present, may be identified as well.

Try staring at your main point for a full minute to see whether there is anything else in the picture competing for your attention. If you do happen to see an issue, it’s easy enough to eliminate or alter the offending element so that it no longer stands out.

Don’t make your artwork seem cluttered by using too many little, intricate elements. Make a space for the viewer’s gaze to settle, and focus on a single focal point.
To create more contrast, try putting the strongest tonal value near the subject.
Sharper, more defined edges are used to draw attention to or highlight something, whereas rounded or softer edges are used to downplay or obscure it.

How to Find the Subject of Your Own Paintings: The Focal Point
Image by Claude Monet (own work) of Jean Monet riding his hobby horse, 1872; licenced under CC0 from Wikimedia Commons.

Simply using lines, particularly ones that seem to be receding, might help direct the eye of the observer to the subject of interest. Arms extending in that direction, or the leaning of a table toward the subject.
Spend some time looking at the work of other painters to get a sense of composition and how to make a picture that appeals to the eye.
When composing a painting, the choice of a focal point is one of the first decisions to be made. The focus of your picture may then be drawn from this focal point. You’ll have a better idea of where to put your most striking colours and tones. Although a focus point isn’t required for a painting to be successful, it is highly recommended.

Regularly Asked Questions

Can You Explain the Concept of an Artistic Focal Point?

One component of a painting’s composition is the focal point, which is used to draw the eye of the observer. The human eye is naturally drawn to the region of greatest contrast in a picture. Having something to draw attention to and lead the eye through a painting is called a focus point.

Does Every Picture Need to Have a Main Subject?

Using focal points is a terrific suggestion for making a more three-dimensional and engaging picture. It is up to the artist, however, to decide whether or not to include a focal point.

When shaping a focal point, what factors are most important to consider?

Several methods exist for doing so. The key is to emphasise something by contrasting it. Contrast may be achieved by the form, size, colour, value, and even texture. The painting’s theme, point of emphasis, and level of detail may all have an impact. A more impressive focal point may be created by combining different features.