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Old 05-04-2006, 09:32 PM   #1
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Focus




In the past I
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Old 05-05-2006, 09:34 PM   #2
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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Thanks, Steven -

I've always loved your explanations, whether a critique or an explanatory essay, as you have done here.

You're focusing in (yes, that was intentional) on one aspect of an area of study I'm very intent on studying - that of composition. I was fortunate enough to be able to see the Andrew Wyeth exhibit in Atlanta. I have learned from my reading how carefully he designs his compositions, and, yes, absolutely, he has focal points, and leads the eye around the painting. To me, that is one of the key marks of the professional artist.

Without a good composition, including a focal point, a beautifully painted piece will be lacking.

I hope you will consider sharing more of your thoughts on other aspects of composition.
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Old 05-05-2006, 10:19 PM   #3
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Glad you found something here, Julie.

There is so much material, so many sources, that it can be overwhelming. Most of us spend too much time searching for magic, instead of ensuring that the fundamentals are in place.

Fundamentals are the magic. (That's what Jay Moore means when he says "This isn't a trick.") The rest is either pure genius, which I don't happen to have inherited, or paste jewelry, which is in abundance.

Composition first, using lines and values and focal areas. Failing that, your 3- or 53-pigment palette is irrelevant, because you're icing a cake made of crushed glass and bent steel.

It will now be a long hiatus, but I will come back to post traditional and contemporary portrait images, or URL links, that exemplify attention to focal areas in the composition. I would encourage any other members to do the same here, whenever they wish.

By the way, focal areas and "sight lines," or movement through the piece, are related but different concepts. Multiple focal areas aren't "acceptable" simply because there's a "sight line" moving the eye from one to the other. That's what Jay Moore is warning about, when talking about the mountain-river-tree movement of focus problem.
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Old 05-06-2006, 12:11 PM   #4
Claudemir Bonfim Claudemir Bonfim is offline
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I liked your article very much and I hope to read more articles like this in the future.

I always liked to focus on one point in my drawings and paintings, to have a focal area, it's good to know that it was not inappropriate.
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Old 05-06-2006, 01:28 PM   #5
Carol Norton Carol Norton is offline
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star Clarity of Words = Teacher of Great Worth

Thank you, Steven, for taking the time and effort to post such valuable lessons. You, too, should be writing regular articles that you are paid to write for an art magazine or an avenue like The World of Portrait Painting. You have a real way with words which = a gifted teacher.
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Old 05-06-2006, 08:40 PM   #6
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Thanks for this, Steven. I also enjoy Jay Moore's work (I think I learned about him through you).

I particularly liked your comparison between a strong simple composition and "a simple tune, played well". The fundamentals, thoroughly mastered, will accomplish more than all the other "sturm and drang" we can stir up and throw on the canvas.
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Old 05-06-2006, 10:03 PM   #7
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Thanks, folks, glad there's something here that's interesting.

Michele, yes, exactly -- you know, I had a few moments back in those years when I thought, boy, I hope "they" don't ever find out that this isn't as hard as it looks.

But so many of us continue to insist on making it harder than it is. I think we keep being sucked in by the pyrotechnics, which burn out in seconds.

Concept. Composition, Value design. Thumb-nail sketch. Focal areas. Commitment to the idea. Finally, color to bring it all into play.

We make it so hard. Fundamentals make it so much easier and enjoyable. With that "outline," you already know what you want to say. You can spend your energy on how to say it.
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Old 05-07-2006, 02:21 AM   #8
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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But it's still hard (at least for me)!
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:01 AM   #9
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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One quick addendum (came to me on the commute to work this morning). Jay mentioned this, and I forgot to.

It's not the case that only your focal area has the most interesting color, contrast, edges and detail, with all of that muted everywhere else. It should have some of that, different from the treatment elsewhere in the picture.

So it may well be that you'll have an entire piece that is brilliant in hue, or perhaps flat in value. In the latter case, say, you simply may not be able to "punch up" the focal area with a lot of value contrast (unless you invent it). That's fine -- just punch it up with more color than the other parts of the painting, or perhaps more detail.

In some way, distinguish the focal area from the rest of the picture, to catch the viewer's eye and say, "Here -- this is what I most wanted to show you."
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Old 05-09-2006, 05:20 PM   #10
John Reidy John Reidy is offline
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Steven,

Thanks for the postings. I'd like to ask you to please keep your eye out for my next post. It is a piece I just finished today and my goal was to create depth and a focal point. I would appreciate your views.

I will allow about a week for it to dry and then I'll photograph it for my portfolio and a post.
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