On looking at Acorn Squash and Onion, Andrew said he couldn’t decide if the focal point was the garlic or the onion. I’ve been having a similar thought, though unformed. If it’s unclear what the focal point is, the painting suffers. I had to choose between the two, and emphasize one unmistakenly. We experimented by shining a flashlight on the painting on the onion, and then the garlic. It’s a good trick for simulating focus (which can then only be achieved on the painting in an altogether differant way with pigment). We both agreed that it was more pleasing to highlight the onion. This surprised me. I had always thought the focal point was the garlic, because of its bright value and its interesting detail. However, I’ve found that I often have to go with my gut reaction on judging these things, even if it means changing my plans!
To add emphasis to the onion, I did several things. First, I darkened the glaze on the background surrounding the onion, to add focus through value contrast. Then, I glazed an intense orange in the midtone area adjacent to the shadow area (this is where color shows most intensely on a rounded form). The heightened color will also draw attention to the onion. I then made the highlight area larger, and added a bright white dot in the center. Detail also draws the eye, so I emphasizied the longitudinal lines on the onion. Finally, I brightened the edge of the garlic stem that points to the onion and almost touches it. It worked! The effect was both subtle and dramatic. Now, the onion was definitely the center of attention. It’s amazing how much a painting is strengthened by having a clear focal point.