Sunday, February 1, 2009

Using Value Contrast

This newest painting is titled "Summer Song".

In working out any composition, the goal is to guide the viewer's eye to see the focal point.
A good painting should always be "about something" - it should say "Look here! This is what I want you to see!".  Everything else in the painting should play second fiddle to that big idea.

 Our eyes tend to immediately focus on the area of greatest contrast - where there is the greatest difference in value, or light and dark.  So one way to guide the viewer's eye to your main idea is to place that area of greatest contrast in your focal point.  In this painting, it's pretty obvious that the white horse, standing as he is against the tree shadows, is the main object of attention. He's the first thing your eyes land on when you look at the painting. Though there are other areas of great contrast (the foreground trees silhouetted against the sunlit pasture, for example) the white horse is still the first thing you see because the contrast is greater.  

It's a good thing to take your viewers on a "visual journey" into any painting. It should be structured so that the viewers travel into the world you have created on canvas, find the center of attention, but also take in the rest of the scene. In this painting, where do you go? You enter in the bottom left, in the deep shadows, travel immediately  to the white horse, then notice the other horses, particularly the one in the shadows, up the trees to the sky and background ridge, over to the shadowed leaves, and  down to the sunlit field and road, and back over to the white horse. It's sort of a spiral journey, with all elements leading your eyes back into the painting. This is a good thing - nothing should take your eye and direct it out toward the edges and out of the visual field.

This, and a few other works, will be displayed for the month of February at Luciano's Cafe in Londonderry, NH.  If you're in the area, please stop by and take a look!  See if you can find the cetner of attention in each painting!