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"Landscape Composition Rules "
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Author: Johannes_Vloothuis, Contributing Editor

I have put together a series of “ rules” (I’d prefer the word, tips) of composition that when used properly should reduce the flaws in your landscape paintings. These are a compilation of what appears in most books on composition plus some of my own ideas. A word of caution; do not allow these to hinder your work. They are to help you out when you are in doubt on where to place diverse elements in your work. Rules are made to be broken, in which case you should at least know what rule you are breaking and why and not err due to insufficient knowledge. There are 23 pages so get a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a long haul.
1. Look at the picture above. A Landscape painting should contain a center of interest, which is the most predominant and beautiful area in a painting. The center of interest can be further enhanced when it contains a focal point creating a "bulls-eye" effect by adding a touch of purer color, and/or value contrast. This area will become the star in your play. The surrounding area should be subordinate. A well developed center of interest contains:
  • The strongest color and if possible complementary colors.
  • A strong shift in value contrast (Light-dark or vice versa)
  • Preferably, not essentially, it should take up a good portion of the picture plane and gradually become subdued while withdrawing.
  • Man made structures, animals or human figures will further enhance the center of interest. They take the role of main actors.
  • The subordinate and surrounding elements should direct or lead the viewer to that center of interest by means of pointers and visual paths. See fig 1 &2.
  • It should not be placed in the center nor halfway in the picture, preferably in any of the 1/3 portions.
  • This area should not be blocked, not even partially. This will diminish its importance.
  • An effectively designed center of interest will grasp and hold the viewer's attention.
Fig 2. The logs correctly placed are great pointers that lead the viewer’s eye to the area the artist prefers.
Fig 3. The shore serves as a visual path that leads to the bridge which is the center of interest.
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