Thursday, December 4, 2014

Portrait of a Mad Woman by Théodore Géricault Shows How to Use Definition as a Focal Point

In painting composition, the relative amount of definition, or enhanced detail, can be used to home in on a focal point, much like one's eye focuses naturally on a subject of interest and lets the other stuff blur out a bit.

In Portrait of a Mad Woman, shown above, Géricault renders the face of his subject with incredible sensitivity to detail, capturing the rough, age-spotted skin of her face, her red-rimmed eyes and her querulous expression perfectly. Her white cap (a framing device--another way to draw the eye to the focal point) is shown in slightly lesser detail, and the farther one travels from her face, the less focus there is: Her brown mantle is barely indicated in loose brushstrokes, and the background is featureless black. This lets the viewer know clearly what the most important part of the painting is. You can use this same technique of increased and decreased definition to draw the viewer's attention to the most important part of your painting, as well.

Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain

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