Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deciding on a Focal Point

A few weeks ago I was bicycling around Hull Massachusetts when I came upon this scene, right next door to my brother-in-law's house. The sun dappled stone steps leading up to the kayaks stored away for the winter intrigued me. I grabbed the camera and took a few shots. I had to wait another week before I had a chance to get back into the studio to paint that particular scene. I had just finished a very soft, subtle watercolor (actually the subject of the previous post: Painting the Mist) and as much as I loved working with the delicate colors, I was more than ready to get back to acrylics and indulge in my passion for pure, rich colors! I had taken several photos for reference, but the one I liked best captured the steps, the stone wall, the fall vegetation and the kayaks. The steps are cluttered with leaves and the fall garden is shouting its last hurrah before the first frost of the season. The fall colors have been somewhat subdued, a bit more golden, more burnished, but I loved the challenge of mixing just the right shade. Although the painting is very colorful, my palette consisted of just a few colors to begin with. New colors, shades, tints and lively neutrals, were created with the existing colors on my palette. A word about lively neutrals; I do like my whites, grays, browns and dark areas to have a bit of life in them. Grays and browns are always mixed by adding two complementary colors together, and then tweaking with another color to play up either the gray or brown undertones. My dark areas are always created by mixing dark red, blue, purple and green together. Color temperature is controlled by the amount of red (warm) or blue (cool)used. And white...is never really white. It reflects all of the colors around it, and the colors of the shadows on the white surfaces will depend on the surrounding colors. One of the hardest decisions to make with this painting was deciding on the focal point. To me it was obvious that the kayaks, nestled in for their long winter's nap were the focal point. But that might not be apparent to the viewer. As a kayak owner, I am familiar with the silhouette of the kayak in storage...upside down, piled on top of a bunch of other kayaks...I have always loved the contrasts of colors as they lay piled on top of each other. But the viewer would need more information. Another look at the scene told me that good luck and nature had solved the problem for me by providing a path of light from the bottom of the steps to the house at the top. And so my focal point shifted to include the stone steps, curving up the hill and leading our eyes to the area where the kayaks were stored. The light color of the steps and the stone wall draws our attention immediately. The light color, with a few subtle changes, is repeated in the trees and the house in the background, drawing our eyes through the entire painting. Areas of vivid color provided by the fall vegetation, weave in and around the path of light. Dark areas provide needed contrast. All of the trees, leaves and other vegetation are painted with a soft edge and no details which would distract our attention from the focal point. Although the focus on the kayaks has been minimized, I am still intrigued by them and plan to paint a close-up view...perhaps for my next painting! I titled this painting "Early November".

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