Author: jackiesimmonds, Contributing Editor
|LET'S LOOK AT COMPOSITION
As you gradually gain experience and confidence, you will learn to trust your intuition and to recognize instinctively when a painting looks and feels right, even if it doesn't conform to any of the practical, traditional concepts I am about to show you now. This is right -- there are no hard and fast rules in painting, only suggestions.
However, it is always good to have an understanding of some of the basic concepts which have been used by artists throughout the ages. Matisse once said "The whole effect of my painting depends on composition. The place occupied by figures and objects, the empty spaces around them, their proportions - each has its place". I like to think of the following ideas as "foundation stones" - with good, solid foundation stones, we can build a good, strong structure.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN.
When we create a picture, we work on a two-dimensional surface and use painted symbols to suggest subject matter. No matter how we work, detailed or not, the movement and direction of these symbols can be DESIGNED TO REINFORCE THE EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE PAINTING and become a strong compositional underpinning of the painting. Although the following diagrams are generalizations, they can be helpful in analyzing WHY we react in a given way to a painting. Let's look first at HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL elements in a painting:
|Horizontal and vertical lines and shapes echo the sides of the rectangle, and they suggest at atmosphere of stability, calmness and strength. I feel sure you can see and feel this.|
|When there are diagonal lines and shapes they suggest activity, thrust, movement, excitement. They create a feeling of dynamic tension within the rectangle.
Finally let's look at curves, the picture on the right. Curving lines and shapes can create movement and energy too, or can be quietly passive, depending on the activity of the line. Beware though -- used excessively, without contrasting angular elements, they can diffuse energy, leading the eye out of the picture. An arc is a strong visual force, drawing the eye inwards the centre.
Do you begin to see how the underlying geometry of an image needs to be considered quite carefully? If you want to create an image full of life and energy, it might not be such a good idea to use lots of horizontals and verticals -- whereas if you want peace, calm and tranquility, these elements would help enormously. Becoming aware of the power of these design elements will make a huge difference to your work.
Let's now move on to:
|UNITY, VARIETY AND CONTRAST.
Sounds complicated, but it isn't really.
A painting can be considered well composed when all its individual elements look as if they belong together. They have UNITY. Another term for the same idea is HARMONY.
UNITY in a painting is often created by REPETITION. Colour is the simplest, most obvious element to repeat, but shapes, textures, directions and angles may also be repeated. However, we need to recognise that too unified a pattern can be monotonous, and so, to prevent visual boredom, we combine unity with VARIETY and CONTRAST. Now our paintings will start to have an underlying compositional strength and rhythm. This is a little tricky to grasp, so here are some diagrams to make it clearer for you.