So, what's this about a focal point? And what the heck is a focal point? And why does it matter?
As I wrote in my 10-20-09 post, Finding Your Focal Point, "The focal point of a painting is the place where the viewer's eye wants to go. The question is, is that where you want the viewer's eye to go?"
Consider this situation. Imagine that I want to paint a vineyard with oak trees rising above the vines (not a stretch living around here, right?). Here's a thumbnail sketch of a possible composition.
I want the taller, darker group of oak trees on the right of the composition to be the center of interest. But the rows of vines heading away from me in Example #1, on the left, lead to a smaller, lighter group of trees. The rows of vines create converging lines that lead my eyes to focus in another part of the painting. Uh oh.... What to do?
If I make sure the lines converge toward what interests me most – as I did in Example #2 – my viewers' eyes will be lead along those lines to the taller, darker group of oak trees – the focal point of my painting. Voila – it works!