What is the Visible Path of Your Art work?

It is a detailed information on the concept of a visible path or journey {that a} viewer takes by means of your paintings. That is one thing I actively take into consideration every time I’m drawing or portray. I contemplate questions like: The place does the journey begin? What route is the viewer pulled? How do they work their means across the portray? What stops do they make alongside the best way? What’s the top vacation spot?

Dan Scott, Maleny, White, Purple, and Blue Flowers, 2022
Dan Scott, Maleny, White, Purple, and Blue Flowers, 2022

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose is to craft a visible path that invitations the viewer in and guides them across the paintings, making a number of stops alongside the best way and finally touchdown on the finish vacation spot (the focus). And it ought to achieve this in a means that’s thrilling and attention-grabbing.

There must be a way of movement and interruption. That’s, areas the place the viewer’s eyes can transfer effortlessly by means of the paintings, then areas that interrupt that movement. That is the way you add pressure and drama. Areas that interrupt the movement are like exclamation factors. They maintain the viewer on their toes!

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night time is a basic instance. Van Gogh takes our eyes on a visible journey by means of the panorama and sky together with his swirling brushwork. Every space results in the following and the journey is straightforward and nice. However then van Gogh smacks a giant tree on the left-hand aspect, interrupting our journey and forcing us to pause for a second earlier than persevering with. There’s movement and there’s interruption. That’s what it is best to take into consideration while you’re creating your paintings.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Drawing
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night time, 1889

You’ll see movement and interruption in good classical music. The piece will begin with notes that comply with a logical and predictable method that’s nice on the ears. It will proceed and regularly construct up and as much as a peak. However as an alternative of hitting that peak observe, it’ll play an off-note or a observe that doesn’t fairly get there. This interrupts the movement and catches you off guard. Solely after ample drama and pressure have been established will you lastly get to listen to that peak observe across the finish of the piece. With out this interruption, there could be no drama or pressure. It is perhaps nice at first, however you’ll develop bored. Benjamin Zander explains it effectively on this video:

The transformative power of classical music | Benjamin Zander

The place’s the Focal Level?

You need to design the visible path in a means that directs consideration towards the focus. Consider the focus as the ultimate vacation spot to your viewer’s eyes.

In my portray, New Zealand, Foggy Mountains, the focus is that faint waterfall within the distance. It’s not a robust focus, nevertheless it’s a focus nonetheless. Discover how your eyes are pulled into the portray with the upward strokes within the foreground. You’re then led by means of and across the portray by the snaking stream and the traces created by the hills and mountains. Your eyes finally arrive on the distant waterfall.

Dan Scott, New Zealand, Foggy Mountains, 2020
Dan Scott, New Zealand, Foggy Mountains, 2020

For artworks with out a transparent focus, you would possibly use the visible path to maintain the viewer’s eyes transferring from one space to the following. That is the case for my portray, Mount Tamborine (see beneath). I didn’t have a focus in thoughts after I painted this. However I nonetheless thought of the visible path and the way I’d transfer the viewer by means of and across the portray. The journey would possibly look one thing like this: Your eyes first land on the dappled mild and bursts of inexperienced within the backside mild left nook. You then transfer with the sunshine throughout the trail after which up the slope. You dance round right here, then comply with the sunshine again throughout the trail, across the greens, and up the tree. From the tree, you comply with the sunshine greens and yellows inwards towards the middle… and so forth. That’s that journey my eyes appear to take.

Dan Scott, Mount Tamborine, 2022 700W, Drawing
Dan Scott, Mount Tamborine, 2022

It Ought to Really feel Unintrusive

The viewer doesn’t need to really feel compelled or pushed on a visible journey by means of your portray. They need to really feel prefer it was their option to go that means, even when it wasn’t. This implies it is best to craft the visible path with a contact of finesse. Err on the aspect of subtlety and all the time be certain the visible path suits with the remainder of the portray.

See my portray, Fiery Sundown, beneath. Look how I used the contours of the water to softly pull your consideration in the direction of the sundown. I didn’t must do a lot because the sundown already instructions a lot consideration. A faint zig-zag movement alongside the contours is greater than sufficient.

Dan Scott, Fiery Sunset, 2022
Dan Scott, Fiery Sundown, 2022

Right here’s one other instance, A Forest Stream by Peder Mønsted. At first look, it doesn’t seem that Mønsted tried to push you in any explicit route or path. However look intently and also you’ll discover the strategic patches of sunshine illuminating the bottom and creating a visible path so that you can journey.

Peder Mørk Mønsted, A Forest Stream
Peder Mørk Mønsted, A Forest Stream

It’s greatest to make use of and manipulate what’s already there reasonably than making an attempt to tack on a visible path to the topic. It will create a visible path that’s extra pure and natural.

Ask your self: How can I prepare the objects or body the topic in a means that invitations the viewer in, round, and thru to the focus? Can I exploit the grass on the backside of a panorama to tug the viewer in? Is there a fallen tree that would join one space to the following? Can I crop or regulate the composition in a means that makes for a stronger visible path?

Right here’s one other portray by Mønsted. Discover how the trail and its shadows are strategically positioned so that you’re led in and thru the portray and in the direction of the focus (the horse and folks).

Peder Mørk Mønsted, Sleigh Ride on a Sunny Winter Day
Peder Mørk Mønsted, Sleigh Trip on a Sunny Winter Day

Strategies for Creating Movement Alongside the Visible Path

Listed here are some strategies you need to use to create and reiterate and transfer the viewer alongside the visible path in your paintings:

Seen and Directional Brushwork

Use your brushwork to push the viewer within the route you need. You get further factors if that brushwork additionally performs into the character of the topic. For instance, in my portray, Maleny, White, Purple, and Blue Flowers, my brushwork on the backside helps push the viewer’s eyes up and into the portray. The brief, upward strokes additionally play into the concept of grass and flowers.

Dan Scott, Maleny, White, Purple, and Blue Flowers, 2022, Grass


You would be extra overt together with your main of the viewer’s eyes through the use of distinct traces. These could possibly be outlines or contour traces, or traces that haven’t any different goal than so as to add a little bit of flare and to guide the viewer round. Van Gogh did this in a lot of his work. It’s additionally an efficient approach for drawing, significantly with pen and ink.

Vincent van Gogh, The Church at Auvers, 1890
Vincent van Gogh, The Church at Auvers, 1890

Sample and Repetition

It is a extra advanced approach. Use sample and repetition to guide the viewer alongside the trail and to create a sense of expectation. Consider it as a visible beat to the drum. It could possibly be so simple as repeating the identical shapes in a line. Or going mild form, darkish form, mild form, darkish form, and so forth. Claude Monet did this together with his Poplars collection.

Claude Monet, Poplars
Claude Monet, Poplars Collection

In Paul Sérusier’s Bushes Alongside the Creek, see the way it goes from mild grass to darkish tree to mild grass and so forth. This sample attracts your eyes alongside and creates movement.

Paul Sérusier, Trees Along the Creek, 1905
Paul Sérusier, Bushes Alongside the Creek, 1905


You would use some form of gradation to guide the view from one space to the following. It is perhaps a gradation in coloration, the place one coloration melts into the following. Or it is perhaps a gradual softening of your brushwork and edges. You’ll see this in most panorama work, the place the colours would possibly get cooler and fewer saturated because the objects recede into the gap. Edward Compton’s intricate landscapes are a terrific instance, with the colours regularly getting cooler and weaker as every little thing recedes into the gap.

Edward Theodor Compton, Ödenwinklkees with the Johannisberg, 1902
Edward Theodor Compton, Ödenwinklkees with the Johannisberg, 1902

In my portray, Elora and White Roses, I used coloration gradation to attract your eyes by means of the grass. Discover how the colours are richer and darker round Elora and the way they regularly get lighter and weaker because the grass tapers off within the distance.

Dan Scott, Elora and White Roses, 2023
Dan Scott, Elora and White Roses, 2023

Strategies for Interrupting That Movement

You possibly can interrupt the movement of the visible path by doing something surprising or abrupt. It’s all about distinction. This is perhaps within the type of a burst of coloration, darkish accents, highlights, a strong form, or an uncommon sample. Something that interrupts the sense of movement and acts like an exclamation level. Beneath are a number of completely different examples. I’ll depart it as much as you to identify the areas of movement and the areas that interrupt the movement.

Claude Monet, Meadow With Poplars, 1875
Claude Monet, Meadow With Poplars, 1875
John Singer Sargent, Capri Girl on a Rooftop, 1878
John Singer Sargent, Capri Lady on a Rooftop, 1878
Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing in the Nivernais
Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing within the Nivernais
Peder Severin Krøyer, Loggia in Ravello, 1890
Peder Severin Krøyer, Loggia in Ravello, 1890
Henri Moret, Rivière de Merrien, Finistère, 1910
Henri Moret, Rivière de Merrien, Finistère, 1910

Eye Monitoring

Know-how exists that permits you to monitor the motion of the eyes by means of a display. We are able to use this expertise to trace the visible journeys folks take by means of an paintings. And should you get sufficient knowledge, you’ll be able to see what the trail most traveled is. James Gurney has a number of attention-grabbing posts on this. Hyperlinks beneath:

James Gurney: Introduction to Eye Tracking Software

James Gurney: Eye Tracking and Composition Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

An Train For You

The easiest way to be taught these things is to place it into observe. So, earlier than you begin your subsequent paintings, take a second to think about the visible path and journey you need to take the viewer on.

Need to Be taught Extra?

You is perhaps taken with my Portray Academy course. I’ll stroll you thru the time-tested fundamentals of portray. It’s excellent for absolute newbie to intermediate painters.

Thanks for Studying!

I respect you taking the time to learn this put up and I hope you discovered it useful. Be happy to share it with mates. Let me know your ideas within the feedback.

Comfortable portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy