Is the use of a focal point in a painting discretionary? It has been argued that a painting doesn’t have the strength of composition without one. I am taking an online art course that includes the topic of focal points. The viewpoint taught is that all paintings must have one. It is in doing this course that has caused me to question, whether it is necessary or not. In the painting above, I have forced myself to create a focal point. In most cases, my paintings don’t have one. I prefer to have the viewer move around the canvas, explore and experience and not be inclined to stay in one area of the painting.
Let’s examine how a focal point is created.
- Placement: The eye is drawn to the center and front of the painting, yet finding an appealing location for the focal point is important. “Where do you want the viewers eye to go?”
- Contrast: The eye is attracted to the brightest area and the darkest dark next to the lightest light.
- Color: The viewer is also attracted to the brightest most vivid color, which can be intensified by the use of complimentary colors next to each other.
- Shape: A unique shape, a larger shape or an extremely active shape may suggest a focal point.
- Line direction and converging lines: Lines may direct your eye to the focal point by using architecture, calligraphy and intersecting lines. Anything can point to a focal point.
- Isolation: Separating subject from distracting elements can strengthen focal point.
- Focus: Anything that is more focused, defined, with sharp edges instead of blurred will strengthen focal point.
There are many famous artists that don’t use focal points in their paintings. Monet chose to capture an impression of the effects of light and color, as opposed to focusing on one patch of water lilies in this painting.
Hans Hoffman’s desire was to create an illusion of space, forcing the eye to move along the two-dimensional plane using color, shape and line.
Piet Mondrian’s grid paintings simplified his compositions to primary colors, white, and black lines intersecting vertically and horizontally focusing on the positive and negative shapes.
Learning the rules of good composition is important, but in the end you must make a decision for yourself.
What do you think? Does a painting have to have a focal point?
Hong Kong Clay Pot, oil on museum wrapped canvas, 48″ x 48″ Price $5760
2k14 current footage 2304 sq. inches
*All art from Janet Vanderhoof’s Fine Art Gallery, maybe seen in Janet’s studio at Morgan Hill, CA. You may purchase through contacting my email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (408) 460-7237. Thank you!