View Full Version : Two sketches - seeking advice on choosing composition for a large painting

12-01-2008, 05:02 PM
Hi guys, I've gotten different reactions to two crops I've made of a cityscape in Venice (ref by Joel in this weeks WDE). I need two cityscapes, and I need to do them this week, and one of them is to be a large version of one of these sketches.

A is on
Colourfix Au Gray, recycled
size A 4 (smallish)

And B is on
Colourfix terracotta,
size A 4 (smallish)

Some prefer A, and others B. I'm leaning towards B, as I bump my forhead on the arch in A.

Here's sketch A:


And here is sketch B:


If I do B, I'd have to watch the lines of the bridge, and tone down the nearest red house on the left. Invent a stopper to the left of the bridge?

For A, I would have to show more wall to the left. Possibly more of the wall above the arch.

Any advice would be greately appreciated.

Thank you,

Donna T
12-01-2008, 06:39 PM
These are both such nice sketches, Charlie. I think I prefer B because it has the feeling of more open space. The light just spills through that opening and right up to the viewer. If you wanted to emphasize the architechture then A would be a good choice - that arch and the wall would demand accuracy (and detail?) Does the bridge necessarily need a stopper? Since it appears to be in shadow it doesn't lead my eye off the page. I just "go toward the light" and toward the sunlit buildings at the end. I like the red house on the left and think it's a great excuse to repeat that color all through the painting. I know that whatever choice you make this will be a light-filled, colorful piece!


Paula Ford
12-01-2008, 07:15 PM
I like B also Charlie. I also love the light in it better than A. As Donna says, B has more of an open space feeling.

12-01-2008, 07:21 PM
B looks the best composition. You might need a post on the left side of the bridge. A lamp post?. Also watch the perspective. The boat seems small for being so close to the viewer. It may mimic the photo, but we know photos lie.

I think you have more problems with A. The curved shape at the top is an eye-stopper. And it's what is called a "dumb curve"--one that does not evenly follow a circle shape. I'd ditch it and make the focal point the bridge over the water, and work with the left building wall--windows, a balcony? You have nice light in the distance (in both versions), and I just want to lift the top bridge out of the way to get at it. The perspective of the boat on this one is fine, I think.

I'm not looking at colors in either as they can be easily adjusted in a larger format.

12-01-2008, 08:37 PM
In A the boat perspective is off and there too close to the bridge.
In B the boatman's head is tangent with the base of the building.

"Free advice is exactly worth what you pay for it."


12-01-2008, 09:53 PM
I'm a "symmetry" kind of guy, so I sort of like A. The only things I would watch for in A are making the arch less intense in color. That intense blue leads my eye there, and I think it would be better if it didn't. I think a bit more space between the boat and bridge would be good, too - just so the boat stands out a bit better.

That said, I like B, too. I would like to see just a dash of sunlight on the gondolier, to make him (her?) stand out more and to balance the sunlight on the left side.

Just my wishy-washy thoughts...


David Patterson
12-01-2008, 11:57 PM
B...I think the absence of the left wall really helps the composition.

12-02-2008, 12:07 AM

I like the first one better. I think it's because it makes me feel like I'm in the painting with the walls on both sides. I read somewhere that you want the viewers to get involved in the painting. Except the arch is a little too prominent for me - I think because of the intense blue which is very pretty, but attracts attention. Looking forward to seeing your final painting.


12-02-2008, 12:19 AM
Charlie, I like them both. If I had to choose I'd pick B because it feels more open. I know that whatever you decide it will be fabulous!


12-02-2008, 12:55 AM
im going to vote for B as well! :)

CM Neidhofer
12-02-2008, 01:12 AM
I like A better. It feels like I'm in another gondola looking forward into the scene. But, the tip of the gondola seems to touch the bridge as it is now. And as already mentioned, perhaps just a little light on the gondolier/gondola. I think A has an intimacy that B doesn't have. Not that I'm an expert. Just my 1 cents worth.


Deborah Secor
12-02-2008, 08:22 AM
A for me. Intimate. Speaks of what I expect Venice to feel like. Needs the tweaks others have suggested, but I know this is a color sketch. I feel as if I'm on a bridge, not on the water, however, as my eye level is higher. No, I don't think you have to show more wall or include anything above the bridge. You're getting too involved in architecture that way. I'd paint it as a slightly longer composition, not as wide and thus focused on the sense of a long, narrow passage.

B is too cut in half by the dark base of the bridge. I'd scooch it upwards and allow more water. It's a 'safer' composition, IMHO, and could be made richer by more dramatic shaping, but again I realize that's exactly why you made these sketches...

Have fun!

12-02-2008, 10:53 AM
Hi guys, thank you so much for the input! Composition isn't my strongest skill, to understate it.

Deborah, I think you're right, that the photo is shot from a bridge. We'd see more of the underside of the Sighs if it was shot from a boat.

Hubby, who's been to Venice, says that the openings behind the intense blue poles are 3 meters high, sometimes more.

Below is a suggestion of a synthesis of all the good points you guys have mentioned, and I played with it in the photo (it is reversed, but actually that was how it started...) I've moved the gondolier and enlarged him. Cleaned up some clutter in the bg.

What really bothers me is the arch! I want it in, but I do not want to "hit my brow" on it. What about a partial, reshaped arch? (Not in my version of the pic.)

A digi notan I think works OK:

Manipulated photo:


Possibly keep reshaped hint of arch:


And here is the original I've been playing with, taken by Joel:


I'd very happy to get more input. What do you think about my suggestion above?


Susan Jenkins
12-02-2008, 10:55 AM
I go with A for sure! I feel like I am in the painting!!! They are both beautiful, but A (for me) is a much more intimate composition.

:) susan

Adriana Meiss
12-02-2008, 11:28 AM
Both are nice.

B is basically done. I like very much the dark on the right side leading to the light in the distance. I see more room here to play with the water reflections than in A. On the less important side, this is also a more common view one sees in photos from Venice.

A presents and unusual view, and makes one feel like being there (I can touch the wall!). However, the bridge now in the middle seems like another stop (the first one being the arch). It needs more work to put it together, but this is something you can handle.

12-02-2008, 11:32 AM
Hi Charlie, I really like A for sure.

Donna T
12-02-2008, 12:04 PM
I like your new version with the hint of the arch, Charlie. The only problem I see with it is that the arch in reality is much wider to accomadate the width of the canal. By including both ends in your new version it seems like you would make the canal appear much narrower there. How would it look if you only included the right side of the arch - let the viewer fill in the blanks? Since we see the bridge farther down will we assume that the arch shape is some kind of connection from one side of the canal to the other?


CM Neidhofer
12-02-2008, 12:25 PM
I like the hint of arch also.

12-02-2008, 01:28 PM

Yet another crop, the way I'd want to crop it, if it wasn't for centering (red lines) and nothing interesting in the thirds (light blue lines).

And I'd move gondole down to the left.


Can't make up my mind, at that is really frustrating!


12-02-2008, 01:55 PM
How about this crop? Except, I'd put the gondolier closer to the viewer and therefore bigger. If I'm missing the mark composition-wise - please forgive me. I haven't been through notan training yet. :p


12-02-2008, 02:31 PM
Both are beautiful but I love B!

12-02-2008, 02:34 PM
I like the intimacy of A, because it should not be an open space. I like the recent pic, but fear it is too fussy w/the extra walls.

12-02-2008, 04:44 PM
Thank you, guys,

there is roughly a 50-50 'vote', so part of my dilemma must be that both thoughts has something going for them.

Michele, one thing I really like with your crop is that the bridge sits higher (not too in the middle), and depth works great too. It definitely goes into the stuff I'll consider.

Thanks a lot, guys,


12-02-2008, 08:54 PM
I think your manipulated photo with hint of arch is the way to go!


12-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Hi Charlie. Out of the two, I like "A", because in "B", it seems the bridge is going nowhere on the left side. It is butting the edge of the painting and seems to be floating in the air. Just my opinion.