Sunday, September 15, 2013

Artist Tip #20 - Center of Interest

The Center of Interest (COI) is a relatively small area that is more attractive than the rest of the painting, and serves as a focal point for the eye.  It's a resting place from which round-trip excursions are made to the other parts of the painting.  Without it, the painting lacks order.

The COI should answer the question "What do I want to say in my painting?".  It should be something interesting - often something alive or man-made.  Despite its name, it should not be at the center of the paper or canvas, but at a different distance from all four sides.  It should be relatively small and attractive.  Ways to make the COI outstanding include giving it the most value contrast, the highest chroma, the most detail.

In the painting Big Cat, the large catamaran has the strongest value contrast and the most interesting detail in this painting.  There's no doubt that it is the COI:

In Midlands Country House, the strong contrast between the white wall of the house and the rest of the painting, including the dark window panes, makes it clear that it is the COI:

Besides making the COI interesting and attractive, one can use other constructs to lead the eye to it, including converging lines leading to it, objects pointing to it, and people or animals facing it.

In Snowy Mantle, there are several lead-ins toward the barn, which is the COI - the road, and the fence lines on the left and right:

In Mountain View Barn, not only is there a road leading to the front of the barn, but there's a figure facing toward it as well:

Placing the COI at a good location raises the question, how should we best split up areas in our painting?  Firstly, the ratio 1:1 should be avoided, because it is boring.  Classical art suggests that the golden mean ratio of 1:1.618 is optimum, but approximately 1:2 works fine as well.  This works not only for placement of the COI, but also for placement of the horizon line, large verticals (trees), etc.  Note that in the examples above, the COI's are  not in the center of the paintings - nor are the horizon lines.  In Off Port Clyde, the tall mast is not placed in the middle of the painting, but to one side, to avoid cutting the painting into two equal pieces.  The boat here is another good example of a COI:  non-central location, high chroma, high value contrast, and interesting:

So... when you are planning your painting, think hard about your Center of Interest - is it interesting, what does it say, and how can I make it stand out - and you will be halfway home to a well-designed painting.


Lila Rostenberg said...

Thank you for giving us good information and wonderful examples!
I may try more landscapes now!

Jim Oberst said...

Lila, glad you're getting some value from my artist tips.