Welcome to Compose. There's lots of stuff here, all about composing paintings.

Current entries appear in Dianne's weekly newsletter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Is a Focal Point Necessary

Does every painting need a focal point? Not always, say some professionals, but others consider it an absolute requirement. In fact, many artists take focal points for granted, including them in a composition without thought for whether or not a successful painting might need such a thing. So what is a focal point and why do we use it?
Also called a center of interest, a focal point is the area of emphasis around which the rest of a painting is centered or something in strong contrast that pulls the viewer's eye into the painting. But sometimes an artist will have other intentions and abandon the focal point altogether
We’re all familiar with the work of action painter, Jackson Pollock. Because of the nature of his painting process—distributing drips and splashes with repeated movement throughout the canvas—Pollock’s later work does not have a focal point. Instead, we are engaged by the endless maze of paint, a pattern created by movement such as we see in his Number 8, 1949
A different kind of intention—that of repeating a single image with variations set in a tic-tac-toe grid—is found in Andy Warhol’s Marilyn, another work where there is ot really a focal point. 
 Non-objective painter Piet Mondrian arranged and repeated squares and rectangles into compositions that leave us in question of whether there is a focal point. In Broadway Boogie Woogie, below, there seems to be a focal point in the upper right quadrant of his painting—the yellow rectangle inside the red square, sandwiched on top and bottom by the blue rectangles--but we are left in question.
So far our examples have been from historical masters of various abstract movements, so do we conclude that only in more conceptual painting does the focal point not apply?  Not so quick:  our Impressionist hero, Claude Monet, did a little focal point deleting himself.  Take a look at his painting, Poplar Trees
The alternation of trees and sky in this painting make the entire piece the focus. We see then that the question of focal point has nothing to do with whether a painting is non-objective or realistic, but whether the images are ordered so that every inch of the painting is important to the whole.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Miracle of Sunlight

Those of us fortunate enough recently to have experienced the total eclipse of the sun felt the awe of its light contracting, disappearing, reappearing, then expanding.  We watched the sky and images around us take on evolving color changes that became almost too much to comprehend.  No camera could record what the human eye experienced and the exhilarating rush it sent throughout our being. 
Ever since the Impressionists became aware of what happens to color as the sun changes position and how our location to the sun determines how we see color, artists have discovered a vast array of methods for expressing the effects of direct sunlight.  Many follow in the path of Claude Monet who was the first to explore these changes multiple times within a single subject.  For Monet, the content was color, not the images. 
Below are three from his thirty (or more) studies of haystacks.  Look at them slowly and notice the differences in color Monet found within the same areas of the scene.
What Monet's work proved, and what we can prove to ourselves, is that local color is little more than a platform for light to do its miracles.  The light source means everything to what we perceive upon and within that local color. Look at the colors I found in these pumpkins whose local color we would call orange.