In every painting, there is a focal point, or specific area of interest, to which an artist wishes to draw our attention. The key as an artist is to be able to artfully combine multiple ways of subtly establishing this in our work. For me each piece is an opportunity to develop this capacity.
But first, let’s start with the basics. Any high contrast area will immediately attract our eye. We are hard-wired as humans to scan our environment for anything that seems different or out of place, as it may mean our survival or demise!
Contrast can be established by any of the seven artistic elements: line, value, color, texture, shape, space and form. Combining several of these elements in a painting will strengthen our tendency as a viewer to keep coming back to the focal point, regardless of where else our eye wanders.
In terms of value and color, you can see that the darkest black of the background is positioned directly behind the lightest lights (in her face and hair).
Regarding shape and form, the organic shape and 3-dimensional form of her face is set against the flat geometric backdrop and wall.
I also played with the texture throughout, changing it from a smooth, subtle feel in her face to a rough, loose brushstroke in the background and bottom.
As well, I created lost edges where her body merges with the background and the shadows in her hair merge with the black backdrop. Some body parts, such as her hands, are mere suggestions, loosely but accurately positioned such that our mind naturally fills in the rest of her bodily form.
These lower contrast areas and lost edges allow our eye to rest. Our attention can then re-focus on the comparatively high contrast focal point, including where her shoulder, neck and ear seem to pop out and grab our attention.
I’ve titled this piece “Portrait of Impermanence” as she seems to be both boldy present in her found edges and yet blowing away in the wind along her lost edges. More generally, each day brings forth some soft edges where we blend and blow away, and some hard edges of striking attendance; yet all are impermanent. What do you think – does this idea ring true for you too?