When painting, so many thoughts are going through your head. You are not only looking at your subject, but also thinking about them as any normal person would. You are also studying them, and discovering things about that person, landscape or thing that are of interest, and sometimes not. On top of all that you are thinking of the paint, how it handles (believe it or not temperature plays a vital role in a paints viscosity), what brushes or mediums to use, and whether these will suit the subject or bring about the desired visual effect. Furthermore, you are deciding how to make the color, how thick to apply it, what value it is, and how much chromatic strength it is to have. To make it all worse, you have to contend with wind, peering eyes, rain, the judgment of the sitter as to their likeness, or if you made them pretty, fat, or dumb looking.

And then you have to do art.

You have to decided what you include, exclude, minimize, and accentuate. You have to decide what is it that makes you want to paint whatever it is that you are painting. That is your focal point, and that is what the whole painting should be about.

Here is the list of things I find helpful to think about while painting:

1. Let the lightest and darkest part of the painting be the focal point.

2. The detail and attention paid to any part should be less than that of the center of interest.

3. Everything in the painting should appear more out of focus than that which is the center of interest.

4. The sharpest edges especially where there is an abrupt change form light to dark should be in the focal point.

5. The focal point should be the brightest color, or surrounded by the brightest colors.

6. The relative change in values should be less abrupt in any part of the painting as compared to the focal point.

7. The painting should be built from back to front, like a shoe-box diorama. In a landscape this means paint that which is farthest away first, i.e. the sky. Then paint in the mountains, the forest, a tree, and finally the grass in front as if they were screens.

8. The paint should be the thickest and perhaps the thinnest near the point of interest.

9. Colors of the painting, especially in the center of interest should convince one of the emotion of the scene. Example: a snowy field should feel cold using blues and greys. Red and orange colors would keep one from feeling cold. A summer sunset should feel warm.

10. The handling of the paint should convey the mood. If it is a painting of water, the handling of the paint should seem as water, and “feel” wet.

11. Have a color story to tell. Why is this painting important? What do the colors have to say, the colors carry the emotion.

12. The composition should help further the story. A pyramid composition feels solid, the shape and accent lines of a composition should convey the intent of the artworks emotive goal.

The piece below, while not an exceptional piece demonstrates many of the above:

Notice the brightest colors and the lightest light and darkest dark are used in the focal point.

The sharpest edges, and most raking light are found in the center of interest too.

Their is a clear distinction between the beauty of the youth and the age of the old. In addition, it is easy to see that one is dead, the color “feels” dead.