Art Composition: Using Xs Well to direct a Focal Point

The first thing I wanted to do in a new art studio with a new easel is oil paint. Turns out the painting idea I picked is also a great comment on art composition. I recently sold one of my autumn landscape paintings, so I am inspired to create another while indulging in the nostalgia of going to our great national parks in the fall. I took several photos and stitched them together to form this painting to best represent how I experience this scene in person.

Art Composition: Using Xs Well to direct a Focal Point by Karolina Szablewska
New Mabef easel on arrival.

When I think about my art compositions, I think about many things, not just the subject placement and focal point. The focal point is essential in creating a good painting, however I’d argue what you do with the rest of the image is far more important. There is opportunity to create eye movement with small and large shapes, directional lines, color intensity and keep the viewer looking all over the painting in a dynamic and playful way.

For this painting, I made many unconventional painting composition choices.

The Focal Point

Art Composition: Using Xs Well to direct a Focal Point by Karolina Szablewska
Composition based on a few photos.

The focal point is the mountain the background, however your attention is steered off the subject to the left towards a purposefully blurred leaf and a glow of foggy light behind the mountain. The leaf is large enough it could be the main subject, but it’s unusual to pick a subject that is abstract and blurry. I really enjoy the little visual storm this creates, how the leaf is a kaleidoscope of oranges and reds that could invoke something else to the imagination, and the sense of depth immediately felt in this tiny part of the painting. The art composition is strong enough in this spot I could (and probably will) paint a mini painting of just this area.

Using Color

Autumn landscapes create a lot of opportunity to use color, and the color is so vibrant it can be used as a shape or directional line on its own. I saw a line connecting the yellow and green tree tops on the young trees which guides you from one side of the painting to the other. Also, I painted a large orange shape out of the fall foliage closest to the viewer, which adds depth and plays with the tall, thin bare trees to create a circular eye movement around the whole painting. This circular eye movement is a common choice for me in my art compositions.

Using Intersecting Lines (or Xs)

Last, I want to talk about using X-shapes or cross in art composition. This is a big taboo and very hard to use effectively. Usually, when you place two intersecting lines in a contrasting region, your eye will get trapped staring at the suggested X-shape like a bull-eye. I did this multiple times in the image (find all the Xs if you can), yet I did it where it mattered most: the biggest and most prominent X is right near the focal point.

Besides the fun of color choices or painting a beautiful memory like this scene, I enjoy thinking about how the viewer will experience the image. In this case, the art composition moves the viewer through the image in a fun spiral (you’re welcome to test if it’s the Golden Ratio).

If you’d like to see more photos from my trip to Jacques-Cartier National Park in Quebec or you’re an artist looking for royalty-free art references, consider becoming a patron to see more private blogs. My art patronage is to crowdfund original art purchases and support continuing my art practice & art studio costs. I am always looking for equitable ways to bring more art into peoples’ homes.

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