Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A little about contrast and detail...

Contrast – The human eye is naturally drawn to contrast, and it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re painting.  Contrast  can be used in many different ways – lots of contrast can create energy and interest, and very little contrast can result in a soothing feeling of relaxation.  In my paintings, my subject is usually an animal, and I use contrast to draw the viewer in to the eye of the animal, usually.  So I make sure I have some contrast in that area, usually through a dot of white on a dark eye.  It’s also important to use contrasting tones and colors to delineate your subject.  Take a look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s use of contrast.  He really punched up contrast to enhance the planes of his subject, pronouncing the light and drawing attention to his subject.  Often, the center of interest also had the highest about of contrast.  

 Look, for example at this painting, and how Leonardo used light to draw your attention to the face of this subject.  Notice that the highest area of contrast is the very dark hat near the very light side of the man’s face.  The lower portion of the man’s body is delineated, but there is very little contrast between the body of the man and the background.  This naturally draws your eye to look at the man’s face.

Detail -  In this painting, detail has been made to be the subject.  This painting is proof that once you know the rules, you can break them in a well planned painting.  
Click on the image to see a larger version
Thank you Steve Mills, for the use of your painting!

There is equal amounts of detail throughout this painting, but it still works.  In more traditional compositions, artists use detail to direct the eye to the main point of interest in the painting.  In a large majority of my paintings, that point is the eye of the animal.  I keep that area sharp and detailed, and soften the other areas of the painting, even if subtly, to direct attention to the eye.

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