Focal Area – Use It to Enhance Movement

by Neadeen Masters on November 24, 2012

Creating Movement, starting with the Focal Area – Design Concept

Not all art forms rely on creating a ‘stand alone’ focal area. In the Russian Zhostovo style of decorative painting, successful designs use the focal area to create movement and flow. This Zhostovo artist draws the viewers eye from one area to another through the use of color, value and line. Sometimes artists will establish a main center of interest by using elements that are different from every other element, for example the two white birds in the painting below.  In the tray painting below, the Russian Master artist also used repetition of color together with the design principle of line to move the eye around the composition.

Creating A Focal Area using the principles of Design - Line
Slava Letkov, Russian Master Zhostovo Art work, Private Collection – 2007

Center of interest or Focal Area enhanced with the Principles of Design – Line 

On closer viewing, observe how the eye moves from one area to another, follow the shape of the bird’s wing…creating subtle movement pointing to the next flower, then onto the next area. The viewer is looking to see what shapes will pull them from one place to the next. The natural arch or profile of the flowers, the direction that they point towards all work together to establish movement.  This allows the viewer to observe and appreciate the whole painting as one travels around. All good designers will consider the concept of line (Principles of Design) to create a pathway through the composition.

How Does Your Focal Area help to Move the Viewer’s Eye?
In summary, the focal area of a painting can be used in many important ways. Yes certainly, it can be used as the star of the show. But it can also serve to be the starting point for inviting the viewer to take a journey through the rest of the composition. In this example, let’s think of the focal area as the welcoming host or hostess of a big party…they present a way for the viewer to enter the painting (party), greet the hosts and then be free to visit and greet the other guests at the party. Imagine if we get stuck interacting with the host or hostess with no way to move on? That would not suggest a successful party or painting. I always like to use analogies to explain these concepts, as sometimes we get lost in the technical jargon and miss the point of the exercise.
So remember this as you plan your next composition…who is the star of the show or the host at the party, and do they provide a way or point for you to meet and greet the other guests?

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