Starting At the Center of Interest

When we start a landscape painting, one of the things we need to establish is depth so it helps to start, back to front, getting the value and color temperature differences to make planes and objects recede.  But there are some paintings where depth isn't part of the focus. Paintings where the center of interest is not just the main focus, but the only focus, no messing around with background or a secondary center of interest.

Everything is simplified so the one object is what the viewer looks at. Composing is very important in these vignettes because there isn't much depth to pull the viewer in and move them around the canvas. So it's important to spend time cropping and eliminating unwanted stuff.

In the painting by Robert Vonnoh, American impressionist, early 20th century, his focus is entirely the trees but he still composed the canvas so that it isn't just a tree study but a composed painting.

Robert Vonnoh

Robert Vonnoh

Phil Starke

Phil Starke

When we're painting outside it helps to focus on a center of interest and barely suggest the rest of the composition. In this painting of some fallen trees, I zoomed in and spent 90% of the time on the trees. It helped me to keep things real simple by just focusing on the trees.

Phil Starke

Phil Starke

This is another demonstration of focusing on the center of interest and eliminating detail on all other parts of the landscape. The tractor has the strongest color, the most contrast and the most detail. Everything else fades away.

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