Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Focal point?

This is a photo of the view across the river from where I live in Oregon. I’d like to use it for my second landscape attempt. But as I look at the image, I don’t see an obvious focal point. The photo was taken on a somewhat overcast day and doesn’t have dramatic lighting. It's a somewhat mundane image, but still, that's the view.

Is there a focal point that’s apparent to others that I am missing?

I could probably use artistic license and put something in the painting that isn’t really there. Not sure what that would be… I have occasionally seen cattle come to the edge of the river to drink, but I really don’t want to put a cow in the painting.

I welcome your suggestions And thanks for stopping by!


Sherry said...

Sharon, sometimes our favorite scenes don't automatically arrange themselves artistically. I can see you are lucky to have such a pretty view with trees and water. But the photo as it stand almost looks like three fairly even horizontal ribbons. I'd experiment with cropping differently to make the areas less even. You could remove a couple trees and make the tallest clump more prominent. You might add a person or tow. Or think about using tonal values to create a area of higher contrast, which could serve as a focal point. Maybe run a copy on cheap computer paper and experiment there. Good luck!

Steve said...

A strong composition so important to any artistic work. There's a several ways you could go here.

Since the river is near your home, you could re-take the photo, striving to create a well-composed photograph from which to paint.

Second, use the Rule of Thirds to place an interesting object into the painting at the intersection of the rule-of-thirds grid. You can even invent a focal point. Take a look at this sketch:

I artificially placed some red color in order to create a focal point that didn't actually exist. It helps to draw the eye into the painting.

Good luck!

Steve said...

Sorry, my sketch link didn't show up... here it is:

Karen said...

You can also create a center of interest with light, even without changing the objects in a painting. Put your brightest brights near your darkest darks and you have a focal point - what attracts the eye. The large clump of trees on the left could have strong sunlight striking their tops as though the sun is breaking through the clouds. Having a light pattern is another way to add interest to composition. I agree with what others have said about the rule of thirds also

Linda said...

Sharon, I think you have an opportunity to paint a trail of lights through this that take you from the reeds on the lower left third, along a diagonal across the river, to the light and shadow area under and around the clump of trees on the right, then leave a little trail of the same light back up the hillside -- maybe? Landscapes can be very different that other types of paintings, I think, in that we are attracted to a "view" and how the view makes us feel, rather than to a particular object. The eye still wants to see good composition, but tends to look at the painting more as a whole. (So you still need to consider the rule of thirds, unevenly placed intervals, and unevenly shaped objects, etc.) You still need a focal point, of course... (and here, I really like either those reeds or the clump of trees or the hillside -- isn't it great that you could do this three entirely different ways?!) I don't know if that makes any sense, but look at some of the great landscape painters and see how they handled similar views. What a great question -- I look forward to seeing what you do with this! :-)

Sharon said...

Thanks for all this great feedback! Your suggestions have been very helpful and now I'm feeling more positive about making the photo work. (Steve, I looked at your painting with the red accents. Very nice.)

Rah Kyndl said...

Is it too late for another 'two cents'?
I would crop the foreground river grass and a third of the river out; so, the river and the far shore's river grass would be the bottom third. Then the middle third with the trees...I would accentuate the ground beneath the trees with dappled sunlight (like the ground is on the right side). For the top third, I would add more sky above those beautiful rolling hills.
For a focal point, I would choose the large clump of river grass with the sun on it-tying its color value in with the dappled ground behind it.
I like this kind of discussion.

Bill Sharp said...


Lovely as this photo is, I think you have to find what attracted you to it in the first place. I know that, for me, unfamiliar sights are easier to be inspired by. I'm not sure why that is. I live on a beautiful wooded property and have tried numerous times to paint at home, but I'm just not inspired by it. I love living there but I can't paint there. I want to paint something that I'm not familiar with. It took a trip to Ireland to get me interested in landscape painting at all.

Just my 2 cents,


Africantapestry said...

sharon. I'm far too late but here I go anyway, beacuse I also enjoyed this discussion...I agree word for word with Rah Kyndl and then I also agree with Bill. I find it very hard to "see" originally in my own backyard. When I was in Stockholm recently, I could literally sit anywhere and it felt like I could do a painting just there! We are going to see this painting I hope?