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Finding and Keeping a Focus

August 29, 2010

Reflection - Mushroom Rock, Bear Beach

Well, I am back from the trek and what an adventure!  I am not sure that words can adequately describe the experience.  The Juan de Fuca trail is situated on the most westerly coast of Vancouver Island.  I think it has to be one of the most mystical places on earth.  The trek could be categorized as grueling, challenging, spiritual, uplifting, inspirational but most of all memorable.  My poor body is still recovering and my mind is still trying to process the experience.  As we were hiking up and down ravines and river beds, through old growth forest and along rocky beaches, I was often contemplating this next blog post.

I had said in my last post that I intended to write about keeping a focus. For an artist this is essential and there are several ways to accomplish this in a painting, drawing or photograph.  It is not always easy and is not always successful but it is something to try to remember when developing a piece of work.  Hiking on a difficult trail appears to be no different.  The trek helped me to realize that keeping a focus is pretty much essential to your health and well being no matter what you might be doing at any given moment in time.  The more focused you can keep the mind on what task is at hand, the more likely the outcome will be what you seek.  It’s no different with the painting process.

Most great paintings have a distinct focal point.  Before you begin your painting ask yourself “what it is about the photo, still life or subject that makes you want to paint it?”   This question is helping you “find” a focus.   After you have answered this question start to decide “how you might bring your centre of interest into focus?”  This question is helping you “keep” a focus.  Here are some ideas for focal points in a painting.

l.  Values.  Place the largest dark areas  with the largest white areas where you want the eye of the viewer to settle.

2.  Detail.  Have the greatest detail in the focal area and less detail as you move away from your focus.

3.  Have your most complex shapes at the focal point and larger, simpler shapes surrounding this point of interest.

4.  Have the brightest colours in the focal area and the more muted colours surrounding.

5.  Sharpest edges.  These edges catch the viewer’s eye immediately while the softer edges are seen with more investigation by the viewer.

6.  Complimentary colours.  These are colours that are directly across from one another on the colour wheel.  When placed beside each other they actually vibrate and draw the eye of the viewer in.

7.  Texture.  Texture is not detail but rather the illusion of a tactile experience.  This should be strongest at the focal point.

8.  Leading with line.  Diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines can be used to direct the viewer’s eye to the centre of interest.

As The Fog Rolls In

If you look at this photo and are attracted to the fog rolling in,  the colour of the sky and the brightness of the reflected light on the ocean then this might be something that you would consider painting.  First, you would have to decide what your focus is going to be.  Is it the sky?  Would it be the fog rolling over the shoreline?  Is it the contrast of the bright ocean next to the dark shoreline?  As the photo stands, the greatest contrast is that slip of ocean against the darkness of the evening.  If you were  wanting to use colour for your focus it would have to be the sky.  The only colour in this picture is the rose of the sky.  This is the thought process behind finding your focus.  Once you have decided that then you consider how best to make that focus stand out above all else.   Using one or several of the eight possible ways to keep a focus, as stated above, you could begin to paint your painting.  Give this a try and see if the thought process helps.

Staying focused …. whether climbing a cliff, playing a game of bowls, cooking your dinner or painting a painting….pretty much essential to a successful outcome.

A clue…quiet the mind and keep it one-pointed!

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