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Focus – Applying Techniques

September 4, 2010

As I Remember

I decided to look up the word ‘focus’ in the Webster Universal Dictionary….not on line.  I wanted an ‘old school’ definition for the word.  Wow, I did not know what I was getting myself into!

‘Focus’ it turns out, is a word of many meanings.   It’s origin is Latin with two relative meanings related to hearth, fireside and appearance, beauty, face…ultimately the shining, glowing, place.  The modern definitions include ‘a point at which converging rays of light, heat or waves of sound meet after refraction or reflection’  and ‘point or area of greatest intensity or activity; centre of radiation or dispersion; ‘ to adjust so as to produce a clear image’; ‘to concentrate’.

For those of us who are long-time meditation practitioners, this is a concept that we are fully aware of.  However, just because we are ‘fully aware’ does not mean we  ‘willfully apply’.  This practise of meditation does however, give us a sense of what could be achieved if these principals  are applied.   The artist seeks a similar outcome – greatest intensity, centre of radiation, clear image, concentrate – bound only by method or application.  The advantage might be given to those who have practised focus on a daily basis but learning to create a focal point in art is something that can be learned.

When we look at the image at the top of the post, my painting –   As I Remember –  it is not hard to see some of the techniques applied to create a strong focal point.  The most obvious might be the brightest colour and largest dark area is at the focal point…the grapes.  Another might be that the leaves create diagonal lines directing the eye toward the centre of interest, the grapes.  These leaf-lines are some of the lightest in value.  The stems also direct the eye toward the grapes. The  centre of interest has  the greatest detail leaving all surrounding forms with less detail, less focus.  Finally, the ‘red’ grapes falling within the largest grape cluster are a complimentary colour to the surrounding green leaves.  This makes the grapes pop forward.

There is an important rule of thumb that the darkest colours advance while the lightest ones recede and the warmer colours advance while the cooler colours recede.  This rule can be used to successfully create  a focal point in a painting.

Convergence, intensity, clear image, concentrate.  Keep these terms in mind when beginning your next painting and you will be surprised at the outcome.  It is not a bad idea to keep them in mind when you embark on your next project, sport event or when contemplating existence.  You might be surprised at that outcome as well.

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