Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leading the eye to a painting's focal point

Once you've determined where you want your painting's focal point to be, there are a number of ways that you can lead the eye there.

Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Last Supper, painted from 1495 to 1498, illustrates several methods beautifully; we'll look at two. They are: the uses of converging lines and contrast in value (light and dark).

1. Converging lines - Notice how the lines of the room all converge, in perspective. They lead the eye in to the center, pointing to the face of Jesus - who is both the center of interest and the focal point of the painting.

2. Contrast in value (light and dark) - The eye is typically drawn to the area of greatest contrast between light and dark. In The Last Supper, the greatest contrast is between the dark of Jesus's hair, framed by and contrasted against the white of the window behind him. This further emphasizes Jesus as the focal point. Although your eyes may scan the other figures, or other parts of the painting, your eyes will always return back to his face.

How can you use this in your own painting?

Ask yourself, does the painting have converging lines? If it does, do those lines take your eye where you want it to go?

Then look to see where you have the greatest contrast between light and dark, side by side. Is that at your focal point?

If your answers are no, they will give you clues about what to do next, in order to make it work.

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