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Focal Points in Paintings – Part 1

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments


As a painter, you want to create a painting that is visually interesting and draws the viewer’s eye. One way to achieve this is by creating a focal point in your artwork. A focal point is the main area of interest in a painting. In this lesson, we will explore the importance of focal points in paintings. In the next lesson, we will cover HOW to create focal points.

The Importance of Focal Points:

  1. Guides the Viewer’s Eye: A strong focal point guides the viewer’s eye through the painting, directing their attention to the most important areas of the composition. It gives the painting structure and helps the viewer understand the story or message you are trying to convey.
  2. Adds Interest: A well-designed focal point adds visual interest to your painting, making it more engaging and memorable. By having a clear focal point, the viewer will have a point of reference to return to, even after they’ve looked at other parts of the painting.
  3. Creates Balance: Focal points can also help create balance in your painting. By having a strong focal point, you can create a sense of symmetry and balance in the composition, even if other elements in the painting are asymmetrical.

You can use a few focal points, but beware of making things too busy. When a viewer gets confused or overwhelmed, they leave.

Focal Points should should be the main thing of the painting. They often are what captured your interest in painting that particular idea. If there is a narrative, the focal point in the story needs to be about that narrative. 

Does an artwork have to have a focal point? Nope. Not at all. A lot of contemporary artworks have played with this concept of art with a center, with a subject, or a focal point for decades now. 

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above the Clouds IV has no focal point. And, one focal point would ruin the painting. The painting is vast, and lets you explore in many directions, knowing that what you will see will mostly be the same.

To get started, first think about create ONE focal point. Don’t get too carried away in the beginning. Make sure your composition is going to lead the eye where you want, and that your other choices will support that. 

To start – look at artwork you have already made, and other people’s paintings. Does it have a focal point? Do you think the artist was a successful in creating it? Learning to look is so critical to becoming a better painter.

Next week’s lesson will have a variety of ways to create a focal point.