One of the challenges of gel printing is that we can get lost in the beautiful subtlety of the layers we create and end up with a piece that doesn’t have a focal point. I’m constantly demonstrating techniques at trade and consumer shows; and typically end up with a pile of lovely backgrounds, with no real focal point. The challenge then is to make them into finished works when I return home to my studio, such as this one:

Alcohol Ink Monoprint for Gel Press

Oftentimes, it depends on your end goal for the work; but curating the viewers eye, as it moves through the piece – so that they see it as you do is what many of us strive for in our work.

The principles are pretty much the same for any artwork. So let’s dive into FOCAL POINT today.

If you would like some visual examples, take a look at this article: http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/formal_analysis.html

Meanwhile, here are some basic elements to consider.

Contrast

Contrast refers to the arrangement of opposing elements in your work. For example:

  • Color and/or Value – light vs. dark colors or their relationship on the color wheel, such as complementary.
  • Texture – rough vs. smooth textures, dimensional elements
  • Form – can be as simple as large vs. small shapes.

We apply these elements in a piece in order to create visual interest, excitement and drama.

Artwork by Kate Crane

Isolation

Placing an element(s) apart from the whole can bring attention to it. Sometimes this is achieved by using positive or negative space. Negative painting is a great example of isolating one area of a print.

Painting White with Gel Press Prints by Trish McKinney
Artwork by Trish McKinney

Placement

Have you heard of the Rule of Thirds? The principle is that you draw a grid with two vertical and two horizontal lines, creating nine equally proportioned boxes. Items at the lines or intersections of those lines are said to create a dynamic composition; leading the viewer through the composition.

 

Oftentimes objects that are placed in the center of the picture plane or near center, will naturally become a focal point. However placing an object or element just off-center, allows you to create a single focal point through placement.

Artwork by Elizabeth St. Hilaire

Another term is the Golden Ratio. Having just come back from a Da Vinci exhibit on my recent trip to London; this was discussed in depth. Here is a great article on the subject: https://www.goldennumber.net/art-composition-design/ and if you are interested in the exhibit: https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/leonardo-da-vinci-a-life-in-drawing/the-queens-gallery-buckingham

Convergence

Using implied lines to direct a viewer’s eye to an object or element, such as creating a horizon line or vanishing point are techniques known as convergence.

Batik on Rice Paper Artwork by Kathie George for Gel Press
Artwork by Kathie George

It’s interesting to note however, that a famous painting by Jackson Pollock, named Convergence (1952) (https://www.jackson-pollock.org/convergence.jsp) seemingly does anything BUT convergence. It is evocative and “attacks the eye”. But where does your eye go but into the details. I recently another similar work by this artist, in person, (it’s quite large!) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City called, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/epic-abstraction-pollock-herrera). This exhibit is wonderful if you have a chance to visit.

“Convergence” by Jackson Pollock
https://www.jackson-pollock.org/images/paintings/convergence.jpg

If anything this painting shows us that rules aren’t rules. They are guidelines. And lines aren’t always straight or straightforward – which is why I like this theory of implied lines.

The Unexpected

Placing an object or element that is unexpected allows this object to stand out and demand attention and creates a focal point. There are so many ways to play with this technique; using all of the elements listed above, and in combination.

Printmaking with Asemic Writing by Jacqueline Sullivan - Closeup Detail of print
Artwork by Jacqueline Sullivan

Think of lines of blocky letters and one line of asemic writing.

Want to read more? Here is another great article: http://www.lacourart.com/ArtHistorySurvey/00-pdfs/library-pdfs/03-design/lauer2.pdf

I’m feeling inspired to attack my pile of demonstration prints and see what comes out of a focused, focal point attack session. What about you? Do you struggle with creating a focal point for your prints?

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