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Color & Composition

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  • 1. Drawing & Painting with Style and Confidence Presented by Anne Kullaf Anne Kullaf © 2008 Color & Composition
  • 2. Course premise…
    • Color and composition are key elements in any successful piece of art. Regardless of medium chosen, layout and use of color are essential in keeping the viewer engaged with the work.
  • 3. Course Overview…
    • During the weeks that this course runs we will explore color and composition through a series of weekly challenges that address the following:
      • Color:
        • Color Harmony & the Limited Palette
        • Working with White
        • Working with Values and Temperature to Create Mood & Atmosphere
      • Composition:
        • Elements of design
        • Principles of organization
        • Compositional Techniques
  • 4. Color
  • 5. Color Basics
    • Colors that complement one another should be used to create shadows and darks, in other words, colors that appear opposite one another on the color wheel
    • Example: if you need to show a shaded area on a lemon (yellow, primary color) use violet (secondary color)
    • Mix your secondary colors whenever possible instead of using them directly from the tube
  • 6. The Limited Palette
    • Try working with a limited palette of 3 primaries, one dark neutral and one white. One of my favorites is:
      • Cobalt blue - Burnt umber
      • Alizarin crimson - Titanium white
      • Yellow ochre
    • You may experiment with other colors you like, just remember to keep it to 3 primaries and one dark neutral plus white.
    • If necessary, you can always add in a brighter primary for the areas in highlight—for example, I often will use a cadmium yellow in addition to the colors above when working on sunlit landscapes just to get that extra “glow” in my greens.
  • 7. The Limited Palette
    • 2 Paintings,
    • 1 Palette:
      • Cobalt Blue
      • Alizarin Crimson
      • Yellow Ochre
      • Cadmium Yellow
      • Burnt Umber
      • Titanium White
    • Notice the difference in mood of the 2 paintings above.
    • Both were painted using the colors listed at left, this illustrates the wide range of effects capable with a limited palette.
  • 8. Working with White
    • White reflects color from objects that surround
    • When painting white objects, pay attention to the temperature of the object itself, as well as to the temperature of the colors it is reflecting especially in the shadows
    Although the painting above is of a pile of all white laundry, a variety of colors was used to paint it: yellow ochre, cobalt blue, dioxazine violet, burnt umber and titanuium white. Notice the warm and cool highlights on the silky fabrics, they are more of an off white as opposed to the cool whites of the cottons. The color variation provides interest as well as defines the textures of the different fabrics.
  • 9. Working with Values &Temperature to Create Mood & Atmosphere
    • Vary the mood and atmosphere of your paintings through your color choices:
      • Dark colors can be used to create a dramatic lighting effect as in the painting top right
      • Bright colors can create a lighter, more festive feeling
  • 10. Composition
  • 11. Elements of Design
    • Line - the visual path that enables the eye to move within the piece
    • Shape - areas defined by edges within the piece, whether geometric or organic
    • Color - hues with their various values and intensities
    • Texture - surface qualities which translate into tactile illusions
    • Direction - visual routes which take vertical, horizontal or diagonal paths
    • Size - the relative dimensions and proportions of images or shapes to one another
    • Perspective - expression of depth: foreground, middle ground, background
    • Space - the space taken up by (positive) or in between (negative) objects
    Source: Composition, (Visual Arts), Wikipedia
  • 12. Principles of Organization
    • Shape and proportion
    • Balance among the elements
    • Harmony, or consistency among the elements
    • The orientation of elements
    • The area within the field of view used for the picture (cropping)
    • The path or direction followed by the viewer's eye when they observe the image.
    • Negative space
    • Color
    • Contrast: the value, or degree of lightness and darkness, used within the picture.
    • Rhythm
    • Illumination or lighting
    • Repetition (Sometimes building into pattern; rhythm also comes into play, as does geometry)
    • Perspective
    Source: Composition, (Visual Arts), Wikipedia
  • 13. Compositional Techniques
    • Rule of thirds
      • The rule of thirds is a guideline commonly followed by visual artists. The objective is to stop the subject(s) and areas of interest (such as the horizon) from bisecting the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.
    Source: Composition, (Visual Arts), Wikipedia The painting on the left follows the rule of thirds, notice the placement of the objects of interest close to the orange lines. The painting on the right does not follow the rule of thirds, but it still is successful compositionally, why?
  • 14. Compositional Techniques
    • Rule of odds
      • The rule of odds states that by displaying an odd number of objects, there is always one in the middle that is "framed" by the surrounding objects.
    Source: Composition (Visual Arts), Wikipedia The painting on the left, a diptych, breaks the rule of odds by having 4 objects (the mason jars) instead of 3, yet it is a successful composition. What other compositional techniques are used to make it work? What other rules are broken? Describe the compositional strategies of the painting on the right.
  • 15. Compositional Techniques
    • Rule of space
      • The applies to artwork (photography, advertising, illustration) picturing object(s): - to which the artist wants to apply the illusion of movement
      • This can be achieved by leaving white space in the direction the eyes of a portrayed person are looking at. Another example would be when picturing a runner, adding white space behind him rather than in front of him to indicate movement.
    Source: Composition (Visual Arts) Wikipedia The painting on the left shows figures moving in opposite directions, there is space implied by the shadows behind the figures walking into the painting and those walking toward the viewer. The headlights on the cars in the painting at right are aimed into the empty road, further implying space.
  • 16. Compositional Techniques
    • Simplification
      • Images with clutter can distract from the main elements within the picture and make it difficult to identify the subject. By decreasing the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary objects. Clutter can also be reduced through the use of lighting, as the brighter areas of the image tend to draw the eye, as do lines, squares and color. In painting, the artist may use less detailed and defined brushwork towards the edges of the picture.
    Source: Composition (Visual Arts) Wikipedia In this painting, the surrounding buildings and traffic are depicted with looser brushwork than that of the main building and figures. The triangle created by the elements in this image further solidifies the composition.
  • 17. Compositional Techniques
    • Limiting focus
      • When used properly in the right setting, this technique can place everything that is not the subject of the painting out of focus.
    • Geometry and symmetry
      • The "rule of odds" suggests that an odd number of subjects in an image is more interesting than an even number. Thus if you have more than one subject in your picture, the suggestion is to choose an arrangement with at least three subjects. An even number of subjects produces symmetries in the image, which can appear less natural for a naturalistic, informal composition.
      • Related to the rule of odds is the observation that triangles are an aesthetically pleasing implied shape within an image. In a attractive face, the mouth and eyes fall within the corners of the area of an equilateral triangle.
    Source: Composition: Visual Arts, Wikipedia
  • 18. Other Compositional Techniques (just remember it’s ok to challenge the rules!)
    • There should be a center of interest or focus in the work, to prevent it becoming a pattern in itself;
    • The direction followed by the viewer's eye should lead the viewer's gaze around all elements in the work before leading out of the picture;
    • The subject should not be facing out of the image;
    • A moving subject should have space in front;
    • Exact bisections of the picture space should be avoided;
    • Small, high contrast, elements have as much impact as larger, duller elements;
    • The prominent subject should be off-centre, unless a symmetrical or formal composition is desired, and can be balanced by smaller satellite elements
    • the horizon line should not divide the art work in two equal parts but be positioned to emphasize either the sky or ground; showing more sky if painting is of clouds, sun rise/set, and more ground if a landscape
    Source: Composition (Visual Arts) Wikipedia
  • 19. Tying it all together…
  • 20. Tying it all together…
    • Here are some things you can do to loosen up:
    • Practice, practice, practice!
    • Focus on shapes and values – sketch in charcoal!
    • Use complementary colors for shading
    • Try working with a limited palette
    • Be aware of compositional techniques but don’t be a slave to them!
    • Experiment and try to break some “rules”, analyze what works, what doesn’t and most important—ask yourself WHY?