What is the Visible Path of Your Art work?

This can be a detailed information on the concept of a visible path or journey {that a} viewer takes via your art work. That is one thing I actively take into consideration at any time when I’m drawing or portray. I think about questions like: The place does the journey begin? What course is the viewer pulled? How do they work their means across the portray? What stops do they make alongside the way in which? What’s the tip vacation spot?

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

What’s the Objective?

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

There ought to be a way of movement and interruption. That’s, areas the place the viewer’s eyes can transfer effortlessly via the art work, 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 hold the viewer on their toes!

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night time is a traditional instance. Van Gogh takes our eyes on a visible journey via the panorama and sky together with his swirling brushwork. Every space results in the subsequent and the journey is simple 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’s best to take into consideration while you’re creating your art work.

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 observe a logical and predictable method that’s nice on the ears. It will proceed and progressively construct up and as much as a peak. However as an alternative of hitting that peak observe, it would play an off-note or a observe that doesn’t fairly get there. This interrupts the movement and catches you off guard. Solely after adequate 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 can be no drama or pressure. It is likely to be nice at first, however you’ll develop bored. Benjamin Zander explains it properly on this video:

The transformative power of classical music | Benjamin Zander

The place’s the Focal Level?

It’s best to design the visible path in a means that directs consideration towards the focus. Consider the focus as the ultimate vacation spot on 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 point of interest, nevertheless it’s a focus nonetheless. Discover how your eyes are pulled into the portray with the upward strokes within the foreground. You might be then led via and across the portray by the snaking stream and the strains 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 point of interest, you may use the visible path to maintain the viewer’s eyes transferring from one space to the subsequent. That is the case for my portray, Mount Tamborine (see beneath). I didn’t have a focus in thoughts once I painted this. However I nonetheless thought of the visible path and the way I’d transfer the viewer via and across the portray. The journey may 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 observe the sunshine again throughout the trail, across the greens, and up the tree. From the tree, you observe 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 via your portray. They need to really feel prefer it was their option to go that means, even when it wasn’t. This implies it’s best to craft the visible path with a contact of finesse. Err on the aspect of subtlety and all the time make sure that the visible path matches 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 have to 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 course 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 finest to make use of and manipulate what’s already there slightly 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 take advantage of the grass on the backside of a panorama to drag the viewer in? Is there a fallen tree that would join one space to the subsequent? Can I crop or alter 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 other people).

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

Methods for Creating Circulation Alongside the Visible Path

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

Seen and Directional Brushwork

Use your brushwork to push the viewer within the course you need. You get additional 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 quick, upward strokes additionally play into the concept of grass and flowers.

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


You can be extra overt along with your main of the viewer’s eyes through the use of distinct strains. These could possibly be outlines or contour strains, or strains that haven’t any different function than so as to add a little bit of flare and to guide the viewer round. Van Gogh did this in lots of his work. It’s additionally an efficient method 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

This can be a extra complicated method. 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 sequence.

Claude Monet, Poplars
Claude Monet, Poplars Sequence

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 can use some form of gradation to guide the view from one space to the subsequent. It is likely to be a gradation in shade, the place one shade melts into the subsequent. Or it is likely to be a gradual softening of your brushwork and edges. You’ll see this in most panorama work, the place the colours may get cooler and fewer saturated because the objects recede into the gap. Edward Compton’s intricate landscapes are a fantastic instance, with the colours progressively getting cooler and weaker as all the things 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 shade gradation to attract your eyes via the grass. Discover how the colours are richer and darker round Elora and the way they progressively 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

Methods for Interrupting That Circulation

You’ll be able to interrupt the movement of the visible path by doing something surprising or abrupt. It’s all about distinction. This is likely to be within the type of a burst of shade, 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 totally different examples. I’ll go away 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 lets you monitor the motion of the eyes via a display. We will use this know-how to trace the visible journeys individuals take via an art work. And in the event you get sufficient knowledge, you possibly can 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

One of the best ways to study these items is to place it into apply. So, earlier than you begin your subsequent art work, take a second to contemplate the visible path and journey you need to take the viewer on.

Need to Be taught Extra?

You is likely to be fascinated about my Portray Academy course. I’ll stroll you thru the time-tested fundamentals of portray. It’s good for absolute newbie to intermediate painters.

Thanks for Studying!

I respect you taking the time to learn this publish and I hope you discovered it useful. Be at liberty to share it with pals. Let me know your ideas within the feedback.

Glad portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy