It's the what and why of the painting. Why did the artist do the painting? What is the artist trying to say?
The focal point is what attracts the viewers into a painting. Then their eyes move on to other areas of the painting.
If a painting is basically a display of patterns, there may not be a specific area of focus.
The fish painting below is a painting of patterns. There is no outstanding center of interest.
Some paintings have more than one area of focus. They have a main point of interest plus supporting, secondary focal points.
Accomplished artists use one or more of the following methods to create a focal point.
It's not a hard and fast rule, but generally the focal point is placed near the center of the painting.
Don't place the subject close to the edge of the painting. It will make the viewers feel uncomfortable and possibly draw them out of the painting.
An easy method of placement is the rule of thirds.
Actually any man-made things such as vehicles, buildings, boats, etc. will automatically be the focal point in art paintings.
people or animals plenty of space in front of their face. Have them
looking into the painting, not out the edge of the painting. As in the example of the bird painting above.
If they are looking out of the painting, their view will carry the viewer's eye right out of the painting.
The egret draws the attention of the viewers. It has several things going for it that make it the focal point of the painting.
First, it is a solitary item. It's a single object. It's all by its self, not in a group.
Please notice, there are two palm trees, not one tree.
A lone tree would attract too much attention. Two trees together, sets them into the background.
Second, it's a bird. People and animals automatically attract the viewer's attention.
Third, it is moving. Moving objects grab the viewer's attention.
Fourth, there is a high value contrast between the white bird and the darker background.
The eye is automatically drawn to a high contrast of values.
Artists will use light against dark in many areas of the painting. But the focal point in art should have the strongest value contrast.
The boat in this painting of a "Cedar Key Canal" easily becomes the focal point because it is a man-made object, a solitary item, it is painted with hard edges and it demonstrates high value contrast.
The red comb and wattles on the chicken are the brightest red in the painting. So they draw attention to the chicken's face.
There is more detail on the chicken's face and feathers, then the background which is somewhat out of focus.
Compare the hard edges on Lacey to the soft edges in the rest of the painting.
They are great for attracting the viewer's attention into the focal area.
colors are across from each other on the color wheel. The compliments are red and
green, yellow and violet plus, blue and orange.
The warm colors, (red, orange and yellow) will automatically attract attention.
When we place them against cool colors, (blue, green or purple) they really sparkle.
The bluebird above exhibits both complimentary colors and a warm orange chest with a cool blue body.