What is the Visible Path of Your Art work?

It is a detailed information on the thought of a visible path or journey {that a} viewer takes by means of your art work. 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 path is the viewer pulled? How do they work their approach 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 Objective?

The aim is to craft a visible path that invitations the viewer in and guides them across the art work, making a couple of stops alongside the best way and ultimately touchdown on the finish vacation spot (the point of interest). And it ought to accomplish that in a approach that’s thrilling and attention-grabbing.

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

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Evening is a traditional 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 subsequent and the journey is straightforward and nice. However then van Gogh smacks an enormous 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 once you’re creating your art work.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Drawing
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Evening, 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. This can proceed and steadily construct up and as much as a peak. However as an alternative of hitting that peak word, it’ll play an off-note or a word that doesn’t fairly get there. This interrupts the movement and catches you off guard. Solely after adequate drama and rigidity have been established will you lastly get to listen to that peak word across the finish of the piece. With out this interruption, there could be no drama or rigidity. It may be nice at first, however you’ll develop bored. Benjamin Zander explains it nicely on this video:

The transformative power of classical music | Benjamin Zander

The place’s the Focal Level?

It is best to design the visible path in a approach that directs consideration towards the point of interest. Consider the point of interest as the ultimate vacation spot to 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 by means of and across the portray by the snaking stream and the strains created by the hills and mountains. Your eyes ultimately 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-about the visible path and the way I’d transfer the viewer by means of and across the portray. The journey may 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 by means of your portray. They wish to really feel prefer it was their option to go that approach, 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 at all times be sure that 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 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 specific 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 finest to make use of and manipulate what’s already there somewhat than attempting to tack on a visible path to the topic. This can 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 approach 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 tug 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 approach 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 direction of the point of interest (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 below are some strategies you need to 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 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 thought of grass and flowers.

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


You could possibly be extra overt together with your main of the viewer’s eyes through the use of distinct strains. These might 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 steer the viewer round. Van Gogh did this in a lot of his work. It’s additionally an efficient method for drawing, notably 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 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 might 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 sequence.

Claude Monet, Poplars
Claude Monet, Poplars Sequence

In Paul Sérusier’s Bushes 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 movement.

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


You could possibly use some type of gradation to steer the view from one space to the subsequent. It may be a gradation in coloration, the place one coloration melts into the subsequent. Or it may 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 an ideal instance, with the colours steadily getting cooler and weaker as the whole lot 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 steadily 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 may be 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. Under are a couple 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

Expertise exists that lets you observe the motion of the eyes by means of a display. We are able to use this know-how to trace the visible journeys individuals take by means of an art work. And for those who get sufficient knowledge, you’ll be able to see what the trail most traveled is. James Gurney has a couple 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 simplest ways to study these things is to place it into follow. So, earlier than you begin your subsequent art work, take a second to contemplate the visible path and journey you wish to take the viewer on.

Wish to Be taught Extra?

You may be involved in 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 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.

Pleased portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy