Thursday, November 20, 2014

Focal point

"A focal point is the element in a painting that pulls in the viewer's eye, that is the center of attention or the main subject. You can emphasize a focal point through composition, color, and the range of tones you use."

"A focal point is the most striking object in your field of view. It can be the center of activity, or the point you are drawn to concentrate on the most. Focal points draw a viewer's eye inviting their gaze to linger and explore. A focal point may be supported by other items that help draw attention to it."

How to create this focal point, then?

1) Color

Color has three main qualities; hue, value and intensity. Hue is about which color it is, yellow, blue, green. Value is about how light or dark the color is. Intensity is about how dull or vivid the color is, about the saturation of the color.
Here's a graphic example of the intensity - on both ends, there's intense, pure orange and it's opposite color, turquoise blue. We start adding the opposite color to each other, a little at a time. When there's exactly equal amount of the opposite color blended with the color, it's pure grey.
(You get brown blending grey to oranges and reds.)

Now, to use the color to create the focal point, you need to know that our eyes tend to seek pure, unmuted, light and bright colors. Light at the end of a tunnel, brightly colored berries and fruits among the green vegetation, poisonous insects and lizards...
So - to create a focal point, use an item of clothing of opposite color from the rest of your outfit.
Use the same color but considerably lighter. Use the dark colors far away from the focal point.
Use the same color as pure, unmuted, and the muted colors, greys and browns, the neutrals, away from the focal point.
You can also use the color properties to lead the eye to the focal point, by gradually brightening the colors.

You can also directly lead the eye to the focal point, by using lines of the clothing, like drapes or stripes, or the outlines and seams of clothing.
 You "mark the spot" with difference. Our human eyes are used to spot differences. The difference doesn't need to be of color, it can be also different material, finish, texture, pattern, etc. For example - a metal brooch. A belt buckle. Leather belt with a tweed suit. Satin bow in a velvet dress.

The last image on this row illustrates another way of using the qualities of color. You can frame the focal point, and then using the muted colors is excellent. You don't want to make the frame the focal point, but what is being framed :-D
I mean, some of these might feel stupidly obvious, but human mind likes stupid obvious :-D It is totally ok to put some big arrows and blinking lights to scream "look here!!!"

Here's three more ways of creating the focal point.
1) focus :-D Sharpen the details in the focal point while softening everything else, and softening more the further away from the focus you get.
2) movement - your eyes get drawn into the center of movement as if it was a vortex. So - put the most movement, most excitement, most action in the focal point, and keep the rest still and calm.
3) stop the flow. Use one pattern for the rest of the outfit, and another, clearly different, for the focal point. Or put everything vertically everywhere else, and then abruptly horizontally at the focal point.

How to adjust all this to clothing? How to place the focal point at high waist?
- empire line tops and dresses
- use belt under your breasts
- put a brooch in the spot.
- have clothing with drapes that are fastened at the focal point.
- put a trim there, like a flower or a bow.
- adapt the seams:
This blouse is a very good example, as the seams follow the waist up to breasts where they stop, leading the eye there, and the breasts make the fabric form a fold to the desired focal point.

This picture also illustrates another point. See where the sleeves end? That's also a line leading your eye to the focal point.
So you can use also the details away from the focal point to create "arrows" to lead the eye.
In art this is done (among other things) by making the people in the painting point at the focal point. We humans are pretty "dumb" in that way, we will look at what is being pointed to us :-D So - arms, things people hold in their hands, like swords, tree boughs, fences, flying birds, anything with a natural point and direction to follow. In clothing these "arrows" can be an edge of a pocket, piping, folds, row of buttons etc.

(There's nothing stupid in it, really. It's one of the qualities that made the humans survive against predators, that are ridiculously better "designed" than we are, in that point of view.  But - we inhabitet this planet and are about the only animal that exists everywhere, from North Pole to South Pole. On land, at least :-D And didn't we just had to invent things to allow us to travel on water and go under it, or fly? :-D So, nothing bad about us being "dumb". It's "dumb" in the automatic, instinctive way, that makes it possible for us to fool the eye and get people look at what WE want them to look at.)

Other things to consider.

If you have several details, make the main focal point biggest, lightest and brightest. Most contrasting, most different, most obvious.

All the other details should be arranged AROUND the focal point.

A crossing creates a focal point. Use that with seams or trimmings like piping.

Downplay the background.

Visually underline your focal point.

Frame the focal point by placing it between two of the same - like the sides of a cardigan. Now, for a Natural, the outfit shouldn't be symmetrical, so use a belt with a buckle as the focal point under a cardigan, but place the buckle on the side, not directly in the middle. Or put a flower on your belt.

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