How can I make my paint­ings re­tain the viewer’s at­ten­tion?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation | Artist Q&A - Helen Vine, Eng­land

An­swer Tony replies

There are many things that con­trol a viewer’s fo­cus, but it pretty much all boils down to con­trast. Whether it’s dark shapes near light shapes, soft edges worked through hard edges, or a stroke of colour at high sat­u­ra­tion next to some grey, the ar­eas where con­trast is high­est will hold more im­por­tance.

In por­trai­ture, the gen­eral goal is to make the face the pri­mary fo­cal point. Faces draw a lot of at­ten­tion al­ready, but the en­tire com­po­si­tion usu­ally di­rects you as well. When you put the bright­est light be­hind a woman with dark hair, or have a man in a white suit stand in front of a shad­owed wall, the dras­tic shift in value will com­mand at­ten­tion.

Here, I’ve taken into ac­count the fact that the model’s hair is dark and flagged her head with the bright­ness of the win­dow. Hav­ing the light source be­hind her also works well be­cause the rim light will help de­fine shapes in a com­po­si­tion that’s fairly dark over­all. Value con­trast is the most dras­tic, so iden­tify your dark and light ar­eas early and pay at­ten­tion to them through­out.

A good way to check on your­self is with a Thresh­old ad­just­ment layer. Click the lit­tle cir­cle at the bot­tom of the Lay­ers menu, then se­lect Thresh­old. You’ll now have a layer you can turn on an off that en­ables you to check if your value pat­tern is read­ing.

When you put sim­i­lar val­ues near each other they blend to­gether, and jux­ta­pos­ing el­e­ments gives added weight. Use both ideas to con­trol where you want the viewer’s eyes to linger in your art.

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