Mohamed  Hirji

Fine Art

Twitter @mkhirji

Competing Focal Spots

Apr 16, 2018

The aim of every artist is to grab the attention of the viewer and direct it to the one object that attracted the artist to paint the scene. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, the artist usually places this attractive item at the focal spot to act as an eye magnet. The artists then devise various strategies to guide the viewer's eyes to this area and keep them coming back to it after exploring the rest of the painting.

One of these strategies is to ensure that there is only one focal spot in a painting. A budding artist tries to add too many items to a painting in a haphazard fashion and thus the painting loses impact. As we observe in movies and novels, there is only one hero or heroine who towers above the rest of the characters. If there were more than one, the audience is confused as to where their loyalty lies.

Now let us look at a few of these scenarios.

If there are 2 competing focal spots, both equally large and spaced apart, our eyes tend to dart from one to another playing "ping-pong" and not knowing where to focus. The eyes eventually get exhausted and leave the painting. This photograph of the two horses hopefully conveys this point.

Two competing focal spots

If however, the artist were to make one of them less important by reducing the size of one of them, the larger horse becomes the center of attraction and the other one plays a supporting role. This is illustrated in the example below.

Smaller horse playing a subordinate role.

Alternately the artist may want to keep the main character in focus and blur the other to reduce its importance.

Only the main character is in focus.

Or perhaps the artist may decide to use only one horse with no competing subjects. As in this example.

Single character occupying the focal spot.

An alternate possibility is to group them. This is a very handy tool when depicting a group of scattered trees, several people, boats, rocks or other elements. Even though there are two horses, by grouping them together, the eyes see them as one object and do not have to dart from one to another.

Grouping the horses

My watercolor painting titled Halloween Pick also illustrates this concept where all the pumpkins are grouped together rather than being spread out.

Halloween Pick. Watercolor Painting

Do you have any thoughts regarding this? Let us have a discussion.

Mohamed Hirji