“An over emphasis on detail can overwhelm the senses. Putting in too many details, too many props, the same care and detail in each … it then becomes a technical study about nothing much at all.”Ron Lemen Saturday, “12 Problems Artists Have with Making Effective Compositions” on Muddy Colors, 25 January 2020
The Pre-Raphaelites show us how beautiful detail can be, but used it with a strong focal point, leading us into a painting to gently discover more and more. Don’t give everything equal weight or importance, otherwise we don’t know where to start looking.
This painting by Millais is dominated by the blue dress and the orange stool. Large, striking shapes of strong colour that pull you in immediately, straight to the figure.
Your eye probably next went to her face, and then left towards the light rather than right into the shadow.
The dark in the top righthand corner and floorboards provide other reprieves from detail until you start looking more closely.
How many leaves do you count? Do they make you wonder where they came from, if there’s an open window to the left of the scene? Taking your mind outwidth the painting.
How long before you saw the mouse?