Topics: Visual arts, Mughal Empire, Focal point Pages: 8 (2427 words) Published: September 16, 2013

1.8 Emphasis and Focal Point

Emphasis: the principle of drawing attention to particular content in a work Focal point: the center of interest or activity in a work of art, often drawing the viewer’s attention to the most important element Principles: the “grammar” applied to the elements of art— contrast, balance, unity, variety, rhythm, emphasis, pattern, scale, proportion, and focal point Elements: the basic vocabulary of art—line, form, shape, volume, mass, color, texture, space, time and motion, and value (lightness/darkness) Subordination: the opposite of emphasis; it draws our attention away from particular areas of a work Abstract: art imagery that departs from recognizable images from the natural world Color field: a term used by a group of twentieth-century abstract painters to describe their work with large flat areas of color and simple shapes Color: the optical effect caused when reflected white light of the spectrum is divided into a separate wavelength Positive shape: a shape defined by its surrounding empty space Negative space: an empty space given shape by its surround, for example the right-pointing arrow between the E and x in FedEx Implied texture: a visual illusion expressing texture

Emphasis and focal point are principles of art that draw attention to specific locations in a work. Emphasis is the principle by which an artist draws attention to particular content. A focal point is a specific place of visual emphasis in a work of art or design. Most works of art have at least one area of emphasis and multiple focal points. Those few artworks that do not have areas of emphasis or focal points usually have little or no variation. An artist can emphasize focal points through the use of line, implied line, value, color—in fact, any of the elements of art can help focus our interest on specific areas. Like the bull’s-eye on a target, focal points concentrate our attention. Even though our field of vision is fairly wide, at any given moment we can only focus our vision on a small area. The physiology of vision underlies the principle of focal point. Emphasis and focal point usually accentuate concepts, themes, or ideas the artist wants to express: they signal what the artwork is about.

The opposite of emphasis is subordination: subordination draws our attention away from certain areas of a work. Artists choose carefully— in both two- and three-dimensional works— which areas to emphasize or subordinate. We can see how emphasis works in 1.141: a double-chambered vessel with mouse, by an ancient Peruvian artist. The mouse on the top left side of the work attracts our attention because it is so detailed, both in its three-dimensional modeling and its painted pattern. (Its eyes are a particularly strong focal point; in fact, eyes are primal focal points that fascinate us from early infancy.) The spout of the vessel also stands out, not only because of its color but also because of its geometric simplicity, which contrasts with the organic modeling and painting of the mouse. We find third and fourth areas of emphasis in the 1.141 Double-chambered vessel with mouse, Recuay, Peru, 4th–8th century. Ceramic, 6” high. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Emphasis and Subordination
When an artist emphasizes different elements in a work of art, he or she creates visual relationships and connections between them. The artist activates our visual and conceptual linkages and connects up new thoughts for us; he or she expands the scope of the work and highlights its main ideas. This is the essence of emphasis.


with the optical effects of color. In his work Tin Lizzie Green, Olitski frames our attention on the color field in the center of the work with three colored dots on the right, red horizontal strokes on the top and bottom, and a tan-colored stroke on the left (1.142). These color shapes support the real focus of this work, which is the blue-green color in the center....
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