Art Secrets

 
 Black Cows in the Fog. 12 x 24. Oil on linen panel.

Black Cows in the Fog. 12 x 24. Oil on linen panel.

 

One morning before sunrise, I slipped out to paint in Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. As it often happens, the journey was more interesting than the final destination, and on the way I observed a winter field dotted with black cows off a country road. I loved the foggy shapes of distant trees and how they almost disappeared on the horizon. The blanket of fog lent a sense of quietude to the field, and a feeling of calmness came over me in the midst of a busy day. I knew then I needed to share this tranquility with others using my palette and brushes. "Black Cows in the Fog" is the result of these morning meditations.
 
Now, curled up in an old leather armchair in my studio, I am thinking of you, my art friends, and what I would like to give you this year. My gift to you is 12 letters, and in each one I will tell you a secret about art so that at the end of the year you will be able to analyze, talk about and appreciate art more fully. I hope that sounds good to you, because it is a gift from the heart.
 
This month's secret involves focal points. "Ah," you may say, "I know what those are already!" But what you may not know is how an artist creates one. To make a focal point, an artist selects what is most interesting in the scene, and then puts the greatest contrast in color or light and dark in that area. The artist usually puts the most detail in the focal point, and less in other areas of the painting. To see this, scroll up to the top of the letter, close your eyes for just a moment and look at the painting above. What do you notice first?
 
My guess is that you first see the black cows next to the light field. The black cows are the focal point, next the foggy trees, and then the patterns in the fields. As an artist, I choose what the viewer notices first, then seceond, and so forth by using contrast, creating a road map for the eye to travel. It is interesting to look at a painting with a friend after closing your eyes for a second to see if you both notice the same elements in the same order. Now you know that a skilled artist creates the focal point with deliberation and care, and you have an understanding of how she does it. That is the first art secret.
 
Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and work with you, and next month I'll share another secret. I promise.
 
-Mallory