I'm not sure who first began to teach painting students that we enter a painting from the bottom, but it seems to have stuck, and for many emerging artists, it is taken for granted.
Let's test that concept.
Look at this painting by Richard Schmid.
Richard Schmid Arpeggios Oil on Canvas
Where did your eyes go first?
Did you begin looking at the bottom of the painting and scan upwards? My bet is that your eyes went straight to the white flowers. From there, most likely your eyes went either to the whole scene or went exploring
around the flowers.
Let's do another one. Look at this Mary Whyte painting:
Mary White Coop Watercolor
Where did your eyes first land when you looked at this painting? My eyes go directly to the woman's face and then those repeated light areas. Since the jeans are so different in hue from the rest of the painting,
some folks' eyes might go there first, but not because the image is at the bottom. Those jeans could have been located anywhere in the piece and might attract the eye first because of their color difference.
The artist leads the viewer into a painting by where the strongest emphasis is placed. The major ways emphasis can be created are strong value contrast, strong color contrast, a
strong directional pull or a person or animal, converging lines, isolated shapes or a combination.
Notice where your eyes go first in this early Monet.
Claude Monet Wooded Path 1865
Go to Scott Christensen's website at Scott L. Christensen Studio
. Cursor down on the front page and browse through his slide show of paintings. One at a time, notice where your eye goes first, then identify why: Is it strong value contrast? Is it strong color contrast? Is it converging lines? Is it isolated shapes? Is it a combination? Is it a strong
directional pull? Or is it something I've not mentioned?
We painters work with a visual language. We use visual elements and composing principles to pull the eye into our work, then guide the eye around the work with various means.
That just doesn't fit with the idea that the eye enters at the bottom.
Enjoy a weekend of discovering what your eyes are paying attention to!
During my Language of Painting series, I explained the role of our visual elements. If you'd like to review those roles to better understand the behavior of elements, here are the links to each of those
discussions: Color --Value -- Shape -- Texture -- Size -- Line and Direction
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