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Composition: Understanding it - Using it! (2/3)

Author: Larry Seiler, Contributing Editor

Now we will talk about how objects placed carefully and with intent can lead the viewer's eye throughout the picture. Many artists refer to this as "eye path."

I've placed a larger object known as a postive space or shape, or a positive element. Being larger, and with my intent for it to remain the largest of the elements I will place, it is fairly guaranteed that the viewer's eye will enter the picture plane here.

Next, I will add two more objects, one smaller than the next, until there is a subordinate order taking place.

The eyes will follow along an intentional path created by the carefully placed elements.

Now I have created a composition in cool hues, with the larger mass inviting the eyes into the picture plane beginning in the lower left corner (see left image). The eye continues along the path back down toward the lower right corner. Again, note in the right image how placing a small amount of warm color higher and close to the right edge draws enough attention to balance out the complicated shapes.

In constructing a painting, the younger artist is often driven by the desire to prove what his capabilities are by putting in every detail and endless objects, whereas the mature artist uses discretion. It must be understood that the viewer's eye is by nature lazy and anything that is too complicated, confusing, or simply demanding effort to figure it all out is likely not to find the viewer making the effort.

Above, I have placed more and more positive elements in each successive picture. In the first picture, we can fairly easily tell what it is the artist would wish us to look at. In the second, we can see a natural flow or path for the eye to follow. Now, let us assume the third picture is the artist busily adding more elements. Note how it begins to become harder to determine the point of interest, and becomes more confusing. Still, not a problem yet, but we are not finished!

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