In the first article, we thought about composition in textured art with the Rule of Thirds and how this can improve our art. In this article, we will look at creating a focal point.
What is a focal point?
The focal point is the part of the art that the viewer is drawn to look at first. This can be created deliberately by the artist.
It can be a single element, a cluster of objects, a pattern or a specific area.
Why do I need one?
Your art will be better for having a focal point. It will improve the composition, draw the viewer into your art and can help you tell a story.
Can I have more than one focal point?
Yes if you like but I recommend beginners start with one. More than one can create a bouncing effect around your art, particularly if one is not more prominent.
How do I create a focal point in textured art?
There are many techniques you can use to create focal points that apply whatever materials you like to work with.
Your focal point is an important part of the overall composition. Decide, before you begin, where you will place it using the Rule of Thirds or other tool.
For each technique, you can use your early texture layers to prepare for your focal point. You might add heavy texture paste or more layers in one area for example.
Here are some techniques you can try to create a focal point, choose one to try in your next project.
Difference – use colour, value, size or texture to create contrast
Contrast is a common way to create a focal point.
- Use mostly thin, small textures in your art except for the heavily textured focal point.
- Create a mostly dark artwork and have the focal point that is pure white.
- Layer up soft textures in the background and add a smooth, angular focal element.
- Organic textures set against rigid, hard edges.
Try to avoid adding too many differences in one artwork, choose one or two to focus on. Too many can feel overwhelming and then no specific part stands out.
Can you spot the focal point here and what differences have I used to help it stand out?
Use space to separate an element
In this technique, your focal point is separated, isolated and disconnected from the rest and stands out because of that.
This works well if all your elements are similar or repetitive but one identical element is off on its own.
Imagine layers of stones on one section of a canvas and then one stone off on its own. It would become the focal point because it has been isolated.
Placement and the natural centre
The central placement of a focal point is a great start for beginners to mixed media and textured art because people are naturally drawn to this composition.
Your viewer’s eyes will go naturally to the centre of an artwork unless you show them something else. You can take advantage of this.
A central focal point can feel very still but this can work well with a face or portrait in your art where the subject of the art is peaceful.
The centre layout can feel comfortable for beginners but it’s also not very exciting. If want to create something more dynamic, you might want to avoid this and try using the Rule of Thirds instead.
Doing something unexpected or surprising
A great way to add a focal point is with something unexpected. This can be a fun way to play and let loose with your materials.
Imagine a softly textured, pastel artwork with a large angular black shiny skull as the focal point. This ups the contrast through colour and texture and might not be what the viewer expects from the art or the artist!
What surprise could you add for your viewer by taking contrast to an extreme, surreal or unexpected level?
Perspective is commonly seen in landscape paintings where the lines and shapes of the art narrow and draw the eye to a vanishing point; the little figure at the end of the road or the sunset in the distance, for example.
It is a powerful drawing technique that can be learned and is a brilliant tool for landscapes.
Use texture, shapes, elements and lines to guide the viewer around your art like a map. A while ago I was seeing a lot of beautiful spirals in textured art. Your eye naturally follows the spiral. What do you want to find when you reach the centre?
Applying these techniques to textured art
As with any compositional techniques in textured or structured art we might need to plan a little. The base layers of texture are difficult to alter once dry and can permanently shift the focus of your art.
Have some idea of your composition and focal point before you start. How do you want your piece to look and feel? Which techniques will work best for this? Where will I place the focal point? How can I make it stand out?
Think about how you want to use your first layers to support your composition and your focal point.
Do I still need a focal point in abstract and non-objective art
I would say yes.
Art is improved by having good composition and design. Even if we choose to work intuitively, giving some thought to these techniques will help us to create more satisfying results.
In many forms of painting and drawing, adjustments can be made to improve composition, balance, focal points and so on. But in textured art, some of our layers cannot be easily altered, which is why it helps to plan ahead a little.
Which technique should I try in my textured art?
If you’re a beginner you might want to try using the centre placement or the separation (isolation) technique for a simple focal point. These ideas are brilliant if you love to pile on mixed media layers.
If you’re building your skills or working abstract, think about how you can focus on one or two types of contrast in your art and really turn this up for your focal point.
In a textured landscape, maybe you would like to practise using perspective to guide the viewer.
Try to avoid using lots of techniques in one piece
Adding all your shiny tools to one piece of art can mean that nothing stands out because everything is competing for attention. Choose one thing, and try another thing in your next piece.
I know this isn’t popular with everyone. But getting clear on your idea, your composition and your focal point will really help. It’s hard and inconvenient to change physical textures later on so use your early layers wisely.
Know what you would like but be flexible
Have an idea, make decisions about your textures and focal point, lay your foundations and then go with the flow. Give yourself a good foundation and you’ll have lots of room to play with your materials later.
One last thing
This article was written with Powertex products in mind, which are what I use to create my textured art. However, these principles can be applied to any materials or type of art, including your Powertex sculpture.
These principles were taught to me by art teachers over many years and I still make art without good composition or a great focal point, because sometimes it’s just fun to play with my supplies!
You do not have to use these ideas every time you make art but if you consciously practise them you will find they become part of your process and your art will improve.