How to Use Contrast As a Center of Interest

This oil on canvas was done while I was in Colombia South America and was an experiment in using light and dark contrasts to create a center of interest while still creating an atmospheric perspective that was believable. The composition for this started as a large mass on the left and small mass to counter on the right. But with the addition of the light center of interest between the masses, the composition changed during the process to the Steelyard balance beam that previous posts have discussed.

The draft of this actually started from an earlier pastel that I wanted to revise and try as an oil. The drawing used for that original work is below. As you can see it used two masses, one large and one smaller with distance between the two. Rather than go from the pastel that I was wanting to change, I returned to the sketch as my source of inspiration for the oil.

Compositions That are Proven to Work

Below are the two designs that this work started with. The top is the concept of large masses as a way to break up the shapes into varying sizes and ultimately color as one works. In the finished piece, after making the shapes dark, I knew I had to have a center of interest and the light source coming down into the flat plan became the idea I built the light against dark.

In the original oil, as the color moves to the foreground, the color becomes more saturated and broken with multiple colors that are harmonious with one another and a few suggestions of shadows with cooler more complementary colors where maybe grass clumps might not be getting the light from the source off in the distance.

Below is the Steelyard concept that this painting developed into; for me the light became the pivot for the two masses. One could argue that the idea of the large mass is still the principle design concept, and I suppose they would be right. I think the real point is that this painting has a conscious design that began as it was built, not what that design is called.

What I learned

  • Color can also be used, not just light, to create the contrasts needed to make a design work

  • Light and dark need to alternate or be near one another to create contrasts

  • My thumbnail sketches can be revisited and used to create completely new works

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