Creating a focal point
James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903) was right when he said, "Seldom
does nature succeed in producing a picture." What he meant was that a
scene which is breathtaking to the naked eye may appear less exciting
when translated into paint on a small square of paper. Often, it isn't
enough to simply copy the subject in front of you, sometimes you may
have to add, subtract or regroup some of the elements in the scene to
create a more balanced image. There are some landscapes painted by
artists which do not show the main focal point.
Just as a play or film has one main character and a supporting cast,
a picture should have one focal point - that is one spot that draws the
eye and which carries the main theme of the painting - supported by
shapes and colours of secondary interest. This is what gives balance and
unity to a painting.
Note how I have made the tones and the colours in this scene to give
a stronger image to the picture. The hut in front is the focal point.
The lightest and the darkest tones in the painting are juxtaposed, and
the viewer's eye is always attracted by such a strong contrast.
Note also the light tone of the road leads the eye to the focal
point. Harmonious colours and tones give clarity and strength to the
image. I have used green throughout the picture. Light and dark green
keep the eye moving back in the picture towards the focal point (the
hut). Observe the white light reflecting on the hut. The joy of
watercolour painting is that the white of the paper can play an
expressive part in idea of leaving areas of paper untouched.
When planning the composition of a painting always ask yourself "What
do I want to emphasize and how should I display it? There are many ways
to draw attention to the focal point, but they all have one thing in
common. They involve the use of contrast to generate excitement in that
area choosing the focal point of your painting and planning ways to
accentuate it are the keys to good design. Undoubtedly the most dynamic
way to create a focal point is by contrasting the lightest and darkest
tones. This take planning in watercolour because you have to paint
'Negatively,' working around the white shapes.
Also the eye is always drawn to human figures in a landscape and
their inclusion can turn an ordinary subject to a striking picture. Here
the man seated on the left tiny as you see from the anchoring point of
the whole composition. Observe the huge trees, as the backdrop with dark
shades of green that attracts the eye and forms the focal point of the
painting. The brushes are flat with sharp edges when they are wet. They
can be used with the utmost economy of stroke to indicate foliage.