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 by way of your paintings. That is one thing I actively take into consideration each time I’m drawing or portray. I contemplate questions like: The place does the journey begin? What course is the viewer pulled? How do they work their method 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 Aim?

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

There ought to be a way of move and interruption. That’s, areas the place the viewer’s eyes can transfer effortlessly by way of the paintings, then areas that interrupt that move. That is the way you add rigidity and drama. Areas that interrupt the move are like exclamation factors. They hold 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 way of the panorama and sky along 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 aspect, interrupting our journey and forcing us to pause for a second earlier than persevering with. There’s move and there’s interruption. That’s what you must take into consideration whenever you’re creating your paintings.

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

You’ll see move 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 regularly construct up and as much as a peak. However as a substitute of hitting that peak observe, it’ll play an off-note or a observe that doesn’t fairly get there. This interrupts the move and catches you off guard. Solely after ample drama and rigidity 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 rigidity. It could be 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 must design the visible path in a method 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, however 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 by way 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 may 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 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 might transfer the viewer by way 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 pressured or pushed on a visible journey by way of your portray. They wish to really feel prefer it was their option to go that method, even when it wasn’t. This implies you must 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 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 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 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 method that invitations the viewer in, round, and thru to the focus? Can I exploit 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 modify the composition in a method 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 focus (the horse and other people).

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

Methods for Creating Move Alongside the Visible Path

Listed here are some methods you should utilize 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 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 traces. These could possibly be outlines or contour traces, or traces that don’t have any different objective 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 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

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 gentle form, darkish form, gentle form, darkish form, and so forth. Claude Monet did this along 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 move.

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


You can use some type of gradation to guide the view from one space to the subsequent. It could be a gradation in shade, the place one shade melts into the subsequent. Or it could 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 awesome instance, with the colours regularly 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 by way 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

Methods for Interrupting That Move

You may interrupt the move of the visible path by doing something surprising or abrupt. It’s all about distinction. This could be within the type of a burst of shade, darkish accents, highlights, a stable form, or an uncommon sample. Something that interrupts the sense of move and acts like an exclamation level. Beneath are a number of completely different examples. I’ll go away it as much as you to identify the areas of move and the areas that interrupt the move.

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 permits you to monitor the motion of the eyes by way of a display. We are able to use this expertise to trace the visible journeys folks take by way of an paintings. And should you get sufficient information, you’ll be able to see what the trail most traveled is. James Gurney has a number of fascinating 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 be taught these things is to place it into apply. So, earlier than you begin your subsequent paintings, take a second to contemplate the visible path and journey you wish to take the viewer on.

Wish to Study Extra?

You could be fascinated about 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 buddies. Let me know your ideas within the feedback.

Pleased portray!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy