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Composition Tips

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What makes a \'good\' composition?

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Composition Tips

  1. 1. Composition Tips Guidelines for creating an interesting composition in your drawings. Marsha Devine © 2007
  2. 2. What is “composition”? Composition refers to the organization, arrangement, and combination of objects within the borders of a drawing space. You want to bring the eyes of the viewer toward your center of interest within an aesthetically pleasing composition. Some elements of composition are: Focal point: A primary center of interest (or focus) in a drawing. Overlapping: The visual separation of a drawing into foreground, middle ground, and distant space by overlapping (or layering) objects. Negative space: The space within your drawing not occupied by a focal point, important subject, or area of interest. Lines: Navigation tools used to guide the viewer through the different elements of a drawing. Balance: A stable arrangement of subjects within a composition.
  3. 3. Focal Point • Most compositions have one or maybe two main subjects that are the focal point(s) of the image. Always try to make sure Flower in lower there is some sort of right echoes the relationship factor with the flowers on rear subjects that complement each left other. • Your center of focus on the composition is always better off-center and targeting the thirds marks are best. Known in art history class as “The Golden Means”, “The Rule of Three” or “Magic Thirds”, this technique dates back to the “old masters” of the Renaissance.
  4. 4. the Rule of Thirds? Quite simply, divide a canvas in thirds both horizontally and vertically, and place the focus of the painting either one third across or one third up or down the picture, or where the lines intersect (the red circles on the diagram).
  5. 5. Magic Thirds example… •“Surfboard Hercules” uses “magic thirds”. •Main character “the surfer” is positioned on •The left third mark. •His arms are crossed on the upper third. To balance the composition, •The top and base of the surfboards line themselves with the upper and lower thirds. • The tipped surfboard points to the right third mark •The space between the left two sunbathers “Surfboard Hercules” shows that negative space can be used effectively. •The upper and lower right lines are the most important because most western cultures are taught to read left to right. • Too many objects may confuse the viewer.
  6. 6. Balance Symmetrical compositions convey a sense of stability. In this example, a single large figure in the center is Madonna, Saint flanked by a smaller figure on either Thomas Aquinas, and side. The shape of the artwork itself is Saint Paul also symmetrical—a vertical line Bernardo Daddi, bisecting the image would create two about 1330 equal halves that are mirror images of one another. Asymmetrical compositions often convey a sense of movement since the elements of the composition are unbalanced. In this example, the artist used organic forms to create a composition that mimics the Wall Clock movement of vines growing in an French, 1735–1740 unordered fashion around the clock face.
  7. 7. Symmetry & Balance Just as a room would seem out of balance if all of the furniture were piled up on one side, a drawing must be balanced to be aesthetically pleasing. Regardless of their actual physical weight, large objects in a drawing seem heavier than small ones. By objectively viewing the elements in a drawing, you can learn to see their "perceptual weight." To do this it helps to Symmetrical imagine a fulcrum or Balance balance point at the bottom center of your sketch. Asymmetrical Balance
  8. 8. Use an odd number of elements With an even number of elements, such as in this basic composition, your eye automatically pairs up the stars, whether it's two left and two right or two top and two bottom. The next two compositions, each with an odd number of elements, are more dynamic in terms of composition, because your brain can't pair up the elements. 3, 5, 7…
  9. 9. Odd numbers add interest Two elements divide the composition An odd number, such as three, is more interesting
  10. 10. Placing elements • Varying the space between the elements in your composition, the angles they lie at, and their sizes makes a painting more interesting. Just touching • Elements must either be definitely apart or definitely overlapped. “Just Touching” distracts the viewer’s eye Apart from moving around the composition. Overlapped • Create unity by repeating shapes, lines, textures, and/or values
  11. 11. Overlapping Overlapping objects, or placing some objects over (or in front of) others, unifies a drawing, enhances depth of field, and creates an aesthetically pleasing composition.
  12. 12. “Grounds” Add depth by using details in the foreground, middle ground, and background in your composition. Background Middle Ground Foreground
  13. 13. Perspective Perspective adds depth and realism to your drawings & designs.
  14. 14. Space Positive and negative space The relationship of positive to negative space can greatly affect the impact of a work of art. In this drawing, the man and his shadow occupy the positive space, while the white space surrounding him is the negative space. The disproportionate amount of negative space accentuates the figure's vulnerability and isolation. He Can No Longer at the Age of 98 Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, 1819–1823
  15. 15. Lines / Leading Lines • The line or direction the viewer's eye takes to go through the picture. The objects or forms within the picture should lead the eye to the focal point. • When art is viewed, most people will begin in the bottom left corner, and continue through the picture to the right. • A good composition will not allow the viewer to keep going right, all the way off the page. The viewer should be led back into the painting in a flowing motion. Note that this famous painting has an embedded pattern that leads the eye through the painting.
  16. 16. Leading lines Effective leading lines can invite and encourage the viewer to enter the drawing space, explore the focal point, and linger to investigate the composition. Representational drawings that include realistic three- dimensional subjects can use im plied lines to strengthen a composition. This means lines that are not really there, but are formed (or implied) by the In a representational drawing, leading lines edges of the shapes of the objects in your drawing. are usually implied, rather than actual. For example, in a realistic landscape drawing, a leading line can be a pathway, a river, a row of trees, or a fence. When properly rendered, the eye follows this line (or lines) directly into and through the drawing.
  17. 17. Use lines to create moods Lines create emotions and moods in your compositions. •Curved lines reflect beauty, gentleness, and calmness. •Horizontal lines create stability, peace, and serenity. •Vertical lines reflect strength, grandeur, and dignity. •Diagonal lines offer a sense of movement and power. “S” curve
  18. 18. More… • Examples on Wet Canvas http://www.wetcanvas.com/ArtSchool/Composition/UsingIt/ • More links on About.com http://drawsketch.about.com/od/composition/Drawing_Composition.htm • Definitions and example of the Principles of Composition http://acadies-art.sparrowzworld.net/principal-of-art.html M Devine ©2007

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