Placing Focal Points On Your Canvas

There are more than a couple of methods for locating and placing a focal point on your canvas.  The focal point is the area of emphasis in a painting that pulls a viewer’s eye into the painting. 

The focal point is also known as the center of interest in a painting. This is one of the techniques artists use to make paintings compelling to viewer.

One method of creating a focal point in a painting is to make one object or subject in the painting much larger than everything else in the painting.

Placing the image dead center and highlighting it with extremely lighter or darker colors is another way to do this. 

In fact simply using a light source in the painting to “shed light” on the main subject really does work to steer focus to where you want to look. The place where the eye is drawn to in a work of art is also known as the focal area in painting.

One way is to make most of a painting light and then have one pinpointed dark spot. For instance if you were painting a white cat and it had a dark brown eye then your eyes would immediately gravitate to the cat’s eye and that would become the focal point of the painting.

Another way to create a focal point is to contrast one shape with another. A good example would be the placement of a circle within a square.  This is also a way of isolating the object in the painting that you really want to emphasize.

Yet another popular technique is to use a series of converging lines from the frame of the painting inwards to create a kind of bullseye that graphically draws the eye into concentrating on the main subject of the painting.

Interestingly enough many artists and art experts today don’t think that creating a focal point is necessary in an artistic work.  Abstract art does not necessarily have a focal point.  Many abstract painters use painterly repetition and alternation techniques to create works without a center of attention. In fact many would say the difference between realistic painting and abstract painting is the lack of a focal point.

However some abstract painters like Mondrian and Picasso did use abstract geometric shapes to draw the viewer’s eye into the painting. So it would be wrong to say that all abstract painting defies the idea of the central focal point.

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