What is the Visible Path of Your Paintings?

It is 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 path is the viewer pulled? How do they work their manner across the portray? What stops do they make alongside the best way? 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 Purpose?

The objective 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 best way and finally touchdown on the finish vacation spot (the point of interest). And it ought to achieve this in a manner that’s thrilling and attention-grabbing.

There needs to be a way of stream and interruption. That’s, areas the place the viewer’s eyes can transfer effortlessly via the art work, then areas that interrupt that stream. That is the way you add stress and drama. Areas that interrupt the stream 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 via the panorama and sky together with his swirling brushwork. Every space results in the subsequent and the journey is straightforward and nice. However then van Gogh smacks a giant tree on the left-hand facet, interrupting our journey and forcing us to pause for a second earlier than persevering with. There’s stream and there’s interruption. That’s what you need 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 stream 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. This may proceed and progressively construct up and as much as a peak. However as an alternative of hitting that peak word, it is going to play an off-note or a word that doesn’t fairly get there. This interrupts the stream and catches you off guard. Solely after enough drama and stress have been established will you lastly get to listen to that peak word across the finish of the piece. With out this interruption, there can be no drama or stress. 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?

It’s best to design the visible path in a manner that directs consideration towards the point of interest. Consider the point of interest as the ultimate vacation spot on your viewer’s eyes.

In my portray, New Zealand, Foggy Mountains, the point of interest is that faint waterfall within the distance. It’s not a powerful point of interest, but it surely’s a focus nonetheless. Discover how your eyes are pulled into the portray with the upward strokes within the foreground. You’re then led via 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 point of interest, you would possibly use the visible path to maintain the viewer’s eyes shifting from one space to the subsequent. That is the case for my portray, Mount Tamborine (see under). I didn’t have a focus in thoughts after I painted this. However I nonetheless thought of the visible path and the way I might transfer the viewer via and across the portray. The journey would possibly look one thing like this: Your eyes first land on the dappled gentle and bursts of inexperienced within the backside gentle 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 wish to really feel compelled or pushed on a visible journey via your portray. They wish to really feel prefer it was their option to go that manner, even when it wasn’t. This implies you need to craft the visible path with a contact of finesse. Err on the facet of subtlety and at all times make certain the visible path suits with the remainder of the portray.

See my portray, Fiery Sundown, under. 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 path 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 relatively than making an attempt to tack on a visible path to the topic. This may create a visible path that’s extra pure and natural.

Ask your self: How can I organize the objects or body the topic in a manner that invitations the viewer in, round, and thru to the point of interest? Can I exploit the grass on the backside of a panorama to drag the viewer in? Is there a fallen tree that might join one space to the subsequent? Can I crop or alter the composition in a manner 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 point of interest (the horse and folks).

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

Methods for Creating Movement Alongside the Visible Path

Listed below are some strategies you should utilize 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 path 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 brief, upward strokes additionally play into the concept of grass and flowers.

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


You might be extra overt together with your main of the viewer’s eyes through the use of distinct traces. These may very well be outlines or contour traces, or traces that haven’t any different objective than so as to add a little bit of flare and to steer the viewer round. Van Gogh did this in a lot 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

It is a extra complicated method. Use sample and repetition to steer the viewer alongside the trail and to create a sense of expectation. Consider it as a visible beat to the drum. It may very well be so simple as repeating the identical shapes in a line. Or going gentle form, darkish form, gentle 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 Timber Alongside the Creek, see the way it goes from gentle grass to darkish tree to gentle grass and so forth. This sample attracts your eyes alongside and creates stream.

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


You might use some sort of gradation to steer the view from one space to the subsequent. It is perhaps a gradation in shade, the place one shade melts into the subsequent. 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 fantastic instance, with the colours progressively getting cooler and weaker as every part 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 Movement

You may interrupt the stream of the visible path by doing something sudden or abrupt. It’s all about distinction. This is perhaps within the type of a burst of shade, darkish accents, highlights, a stable form, or an uncommon sample. Something that interrupts the sense of stream 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 stream and the areas that interrupt the stream.

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 Woman 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

Expertise exists that lets you monitor the motion of the eyes via a display screen. We will use this know-how to trace the visible journeys folks take via an art work. And when you get sufficient knowledge, you may see what the trail most traveled is. James Gurney has a number of attention-grabbing posts on this. Hyperlinks under:

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 things is to place it into follow. So, earlier than you begin your subsequent art work, take a second to think about the visible path and journey you wish to take the viewer on.

Thanks for Studying!

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

Comfortable portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy