Composing can happen in the art world too

Composition 101

Websters Dictonary describes the meaning of composition as, “the act or process of composing
specifically : arrangement into specific proportion or relation and especially into artistic form
the painting’s unique composition.”

Basically what Websters is so profoundly trying to say, is that composition is simply the act of
arranging elements around in your image, in order to make it the most pleasing to the viewers eye.

I guess you could compare it to setting a dinner table for a lavish party. What if you took
all the silverware and just dumped it all on the table, in a chaotic mess. Your guests wouldn’t
really like that too much. It’s frustrating to look at, the same way your painting would be if
you did the same with all the elements in your scene.

For example, imagine you’re painting a path through the forest. You could place the path in the
center of the image, which a lot of beginnings will do. This is ok, but the viewer eyes are
going to follow the path through the image first. By putting the path in a zig zag pattern,
your eyes will sweep through the whole image, noticing all the other details, making it more
compelling and satisfying to the eye.

So why is composition important anyway? It’s important because it brings all the elements of your
picture together. Without proper composition, you’ll end up going in a direction that’s the
complete opposite of what you were trying to acheive in the first place.

There’s some help with this in the way of the rules. One being, the rule of thirds The rule of
thirds arranges the elements in your image using a grid placed over the image
with 3 boxes placed horizontal and vertically. You then place objects in the intersecting points
between the boxes, this always works to make your art more natural and pleasing to the eye. If
there’s no composition in an image, you can notice something doesn’t look right, but you can’t
place what it is. (image of Rule of Thirds rule)

Composition is a big part of what makes a piece go in the direction you want. You always want to
make the viewer feel something when they look at your art. Composition is what makes that happen,
as it’s the way to bring all the elements and planning in your scene all together as a whole.

To give you an idea, look at different pieces of artwork and how the composition affects the mood.
How does it make you feel? Happy, sad, scared, inspired? It’s what every great artist has up
their sleeve, you spark emotion with your work, and you’ll have all kinds of fans!

The best way to direct a viewers eye into your art is to set up a focal point. Something that’s
prodominant in your image, maybe a strong light source, or vibrante color, maybe the pinacle of a castle.
You could go about it, by placing more dominant details in one part of your image, and smaller
details in the other. This is a great way to lead the eye into your artwork. This gets the eyes
moving in a direction you determine, a great way to get your viewers to notice all the other hard
work you did making the rest of the image just as great.

There’s a lot you can do with one focal point, well you don’t have to stop there, you can create
more then one. It will definitely be more challenging to pull off, but would create more involvment
for the viewer. You’ll notice this from now on when looking at other works of art, it needs to be
cemented in your bag of tricks, so you can take better control of your image.

For example, if you have one large object on one half of your painting, you might consider
placing two smaller objects on the other side to maintain balance. You can practise by creating
large and small shapes on the canvas and playing around with balance and movement. Just by
playing around with these rules can produce some great setups, keep practicing the areas
that you’re not strong with and in no time you will start to make modivating improvements at how
well your skill level is coming along.

For example, you might want to mix small and large shapes in your painting or combine straight
lines and curved lines, or cool and warm colors.

A great way to create dynamic composition is to create a path for the viewers eye to travel
around your picture with either elements or light or shadow, you can use many techniques to
acheive this. Keep these rules in mind when setting up your composition, and you’ll be making
amazing compositions in no time and it will be engraved in your mine forever.

This is the sense that everything in a piece ìgoes togetherî either through a unifying
element like color, or lighting, or shape symmetry, you can make sure no object looks like itís
overwhelming your image down.

Here’s how it works: Picture a square or rectangular piece of paper.

If you were to take a pencil and draw two lines to divide that paper into thirds,
then rotate the paper once and do the same thing, it would end up looking something like this:

(diagram of rule of thirds)

Movement is the best way to move your viewers eye around your image, in a direction that you
want. There’s several ways to acheive this, such as a winding path, or with lighting, or color.
You can also have your shapes point in the direction you want them to look, if you have a tree
with branches pointing in a certain direction, or a character pointing, the viewers eye will
always look where their pointing.And donít forget about negative space.

Negative space is anything that isnít a subject.

To use the example of a portrait painting, the negative space is whateverís around the person.

Itís always good to be aware of the shapes that negative space takes on between different
subjects. Is it a shape thatís going to lead the eye around the piece? Is it a shape that
creates balance and movement, or does it make things feel off-balance or distracting?

If you really want to get into this you could even arrange your subjects around the negative
space to create certain shapes.

Triangles tend to create balance and interest in a piece so a lot of artists will try to
create triangles in their negative space.

A famous example of this is The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

Notice the inverted triangle shape between Christ and John the Beloved, the figure directly
to left of Christ. This draws the eye to the focal point (Christ) but then directs it to the
line of the table, which not only grounds the piece, but allows the eye to move around the
other subjects seated at the table.

This might sound complicated and unnecessary but the next time youíre working on a piece,
take a few seconds to notice the negative space and the shape itís making. What effect does
that have on your piece?

Yes it does sound like a lot, but composition is one of those things that becomes second
nature to an artist with a little practice.

The more you notice composition in art, architecture, photography and design work, the
more youíll recognize it in your own work and use it to shape the way people experience
your art.

Combining different shapes and sizes together in a shot creates the perception of intensity.
Intentional overlap in images also develops cohesion and relationships among characters and
environment. The higher the contrast between sizes the greater the intensity. The same goes
with shapes.

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