Beyond the initial impulse that causes the observer of a painting to look intently at it, there are some characteristics that enhance satisfaction. These characteristics lie in the structure of the piece and apply particularly to paintings that are not of a purely abstract nature.. One of these relates to the position of the artist in creating the composition.
Can you tell if the artist is looking up at the subject, or down or straight into the work? Identifying the location of the artist in relation to the images within the composition places the viewer in the space of the artist. It is gratifying to be able to connect with the artist’s intent in this way.
The artist may also choose to exclude effects of light and shadow if she / he concludes that doing so will make the creative work more harmonious, more representative of his / her vision or enhance it in some other way. When examining a painting, can you tell where light strikes the objects in the piece? Are all the elements reflecting the light represented in the natural state as perceived in nature or not? If there are shadows, are these falling in the expected direction and length in relation to the light source? Many inclusions, exclusions and distortions are often conscious choices of the artist. Such a determination by the viewer sets up a conversation with the artist who is not present but speaks through the art.
The focal point represents a specific area that can be defined either by a deliberate attempt of the artist to draw the viewer into the piece, or it may simply be a non-deliberate effect that is intuitive to the artist and is automatically built into the composition. Where is the focal point in the piece? What is that area and where is it located that causes the eye to converge at first glance? How is that area represented? Is it with light or dark, something present in the space or simply pure space?
Color in the composition is used in numerous ways to create interest and beauty. These include, but are not limited to, juxtaposition of colors that enhance each color. The use of density, translucency and size of a color are used to have an object hold its place in the space it occupies in the painting.
Repeated shapes, not necessarily of the same size or color, also have a subliminal effect of keeping the viewer engaged and act to pull the composition together in harmony. Are there shapes repeated in the painting you are watching and if so, can you identify them all? Lines that converge, either by pointing to or touching a single point on the frame, especially at its corners, also have the effect of containing the image most harmoniously.
The Golden Mean divides the painting into uneven but mathematically proportionate parts. In a painting, the distance between two edges that represents the Golden Mean approximates a proportion of slightly less than two thirds of the distance between the edges of the frame. The Golden Mean may appear as a hard line that runs completely or partially across the length or width of a painting.
“In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency…To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty… Both ancients and moderns believed that there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty.
Edited by Donna Schweibert