Focal Points

Have you ever noticed that while looking at a picture, your eyes tend to be drawn to a specific area? It's almost like that part of the picture is screaming, "Hey! Look at me first!" That doesn't always happen by accident. In fact, many artists spend a great deal of time planning how you will view their picture. They create focal points and pathways in their work.

A focal point is an area in the picture that calls for attention. The call can be blatant, like a noisy child in a quiet classroom, or it can be gentle, like a bubbling brook in the mountains. In Rembrandt's Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, shown in Figure 6.40, a very strong focal point is evident. The eye almost automatically goes to the figure in the painting.

In many pictures there is more than one focal point. The artist might build a chain of two or more focal points, with the major focal point demanding the most attention and each succeeding focal point diminishing in importance. A picture with two equally demanding focal points can be frustrating to the viewer.

Figure 6.40 Rembrandt has a strong focal point in his picture. Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY.

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