Study in guiding the eye

focusing with value study of beach fence Feb-5-2019
My study in moving the eye around a painting with value contrast

I’m taking a break from the 30-day creative practice workshop to help me focus on my primary painting goals. Well, it’s more of a pivot than a total break. I realized how important composition was to me, and a better way to improve my composition skills would be a more methodical and focused practice study of it. I’m glad I started the 30-day workshop though because it helped me understand all of this.

One thing I’m doing on this topic is reading Composition by Arthur Dow. Which, incidentally, has put me on a mini-mission to do some sumi painting practice. Brushes and ink are on en route!

I’m also continuing with lessons from Dianne Mize, whose whole teaching philosophy is rooted in composing. For this set of lessons, she demonstrates how to first use value contrast to navigate the eye in a block-in, then follows up with finishing the study by refining the areas of value contrast to help focus the eye where you want.

Using one of the photos she provides for study, I blocked in my basic colors. Instead of looking at what’s in shadow and what’s not in shadow for my starting point, I took the photo reference and blurred it in Photoshop. It’s a suggestion Dianne made in her lesson and I hadn’t tried that before. It’s not something I’d like to lean on a lot in the future, but I have to admit it really helped me get going quickly on this exercise and prevented me from over-analyzing what I was looking at.

navigating with value study of beach fence Feb-4-2019 block-in
Initial block in to establish overall value structure

At this point I took a break to get a little perspective. Plus it was dinner time. The next day, I made note of a few things I wanted to improve, such as adjusting the value contrast with the fence posts along the bottom of the painting. My goal was to have the dark fence post in the upper third be the highest contrast (where the eye goes first) then have the eye move down along the left side to the bottom area, then up to the distant background, and back around to the dark fence post.

focusing with value study of beach fence Feb-5-2019 greyscale
I like to check my work in greyscale, to see how I did with the values. My eye moves around and has lots of things to hold its interest, so I’m happy with this.

This was a fantastic lesson and I want to do some more of these studies to better absorb the principles. I also loved the limited palette that makes color harmony easy.

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