What makes a painting beautiful? Part II

Composition! It’s everything…almost.

Every good composition strives to hold the eyes of the viewer within the painting. It is called the eye path or leading line. It is achieved by line work and arrangements of shapes and patterns.
If you study the horse scene, you notice that the eyes go straight away to the horse on the right. It helps to have the grass point to it. (not too obvious; in a subtle way)
Right after that you start noticing the pair of horses on the left, because the right horse is looking right at them! The very left horse and the one on the right have eye contact. From the pair on the left you’ll notice the railing taking us back into the picture where the barns sit. The telegraph pole connects to the sky. Also, the tree line of the dark background tree and the lower end of the blueish hillside trees make a line that points straight to the right horse.
That’s the eye path I developed for this picture.
It is debatable whether it works the way I intended. It always is, but that’s ok. I arranged my shapes (horses, barn, pole, trees) in ways to support what I was after.

Now, what about subject matter and focal point? Aren’t those two sides competing, vying for attention? Maybe, but I think it still works. The eye contact of the horses does it for me. There is a connection, it gives it meaning and animates the scene. The look like they’re moving…they look alive.

Things to avoid: Important shapes too close to the edge of the painting. Big blocky patterns in the foreground that prevent the eyes from traveling into the picture.
All very traditional, but that’s what this is: traditional painting

10 thoughts on “What makes a painting beautiful? Part II

  1. cathy belleville

    It was such a joy to see this painting in person! For me, the tension between the “main” character (the horse on the right) and that bad-boy horse leaning on the fence (on the left) is wonderful. Like so many of your landscapes, I could look at this all day.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Cathy – you and I thinking like painters. Check out ‘ahorseforelinor’s comment. She describes the real scene!
      Thank you for a wonderful comment! Your opinion matters to me!

  2. aHorseForElinor

    And then of course, for us horse connoisseurs, we take it a step too far; noticing the season, as the horses on the left are swatting away flies from each other with their tails, standing in tried and true position.
    Then noticing how one is scratching a bit mane on the other, while the third looks on, left out of the friendly action. Perhaps jelous.
    The eye goes back and forth for a while, completely missing the other details, but of course, noticing the nice stockings on the third horse.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Ah, I love getting comments from you, Elinor! Such a ‘not-a-painter’ comment LOL. This is so cool, because you described what is most likely really going on here! Hope you had a great trip and thanks for your nice words!!

  3. Janette

    I think it works..interesting how you link them…do you use the golden triangle for painting.

  4. lesliepaints

    I think it works just fine because there is the lighter shape of the barn behind your focal point, also. The grouping of two is less distinct because of the darker background and they blend a bit with that. I think the very interesting dynamic to this painting is that “pole” that forms a triangle with the horses. It acts to tie them together. At least that is what it does for me. Beautiful.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Good point with the lighter barn shape behind the horse! I agree with you about both, for some reason the pole is pretty important. Thank you, Leslie!

  5. Angela Lewis

    It is indeed one of the most beautiful landscapes I have come across. You have linked it very well through the triangle approach. I think it works.

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