"The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs." G.K. Chesterton

Design Questions

Q. Do I have to have a focal point in my artwork?
A. Not every painting, whether realistic or abstract, needs a focal point or "center of interest." Some paintings are "pattern pieces" and some are designs of colors and shapes. However, it's very important to create an eyepath to move the viewer's eye through the painting through repetition of colors, shapes, lines and other elements of design. Entertain the viewer throughout the picture and change the pace so some areas are exciting and others restful. See below for more on center of interest and focal point.

Q. How can I add "movement" to my artwork?
A. There are three dominant design movements to start with:
Horizontal(------) is calm and serene.
Vertical (||||||) is dignified and stately.
Diagonal (\\\///) is energetic and dynamic.
Decide which kind of mood you want to convey and use mostly that type of movement, adding a little of the others for variety. You can calm a busy picture with lots of diagonals in it with stable verticals or calm horizontals; you can add energy to a predominantly horizontal or vertical picture by adding diagonals.

Q. What are the elements and principles of design?
A. The elements are the tools you use to make a good design and the principles are the rules you apply to help make the design work. Your objective is to achieve UNITY in your picture by combining them effectively. You won't use all of them in every picture. The elements are line, value, shape, color, size, pattern, and movement. The principles are harmony, contrast, rhythm, repetition, gradation, balance and dominance. Each of my books has a section with complete descriptions of these aspects of design.

Q. Is there a formula for locating a center of interest or focal point?
focal point diagram A. It isn't a good idea to rely on formulas in most cases, but if you use one as a starting point, it may be useful as you discover ways to change it. Take a rectangular piece of paper and draw diagonal lines from one corner to the other so the two lines intersect in the center of the paper. Now draw a line from each corner to one of the intersecting lines to form a right angle with the line. This spot has the ideal qualities for a focal point: It is a different distance from every side of the paper and not too close to the center. Don't lock every center of interest into these exact spots, though. Vary them in as many ways as you can think of. And remember that there are some subjects that work well with the focal point in the center, so don't be afraid to break that rule. Just don't do it by accident!

Another method is to use the photographer's "rule of thirds". Divide the paper in thirds horizontally and vertically and use an intersection of lines as your focal point.

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