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Old 03-17-2012, 10:31 AM
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Afriqueen Afriqueen is offline
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How to compose this scene

Hi, I recently painted a watercolor from a photo taken in Oct 2011 during a trip to the UK. It is a scene of the Swing Bridge at Whitby Harbour.

I love the picture and all the details - the last light on the distant buildings, the lovely architecture, the waving pennants, the bridge itself and the boat coming through, but when I finished the painting, I found myself unhappy with it - it is too busy and confused with no COI. I wondered what I should have done to improve the composition.

I'd love to hear from others what they would have chosen to focus on. What they would have left out or included etc.

Here is the photo

And for those interested, here is my attempt at this scene.

Painting is silent poetry & poetry is painting with the gift of speech
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Old 03-17-2012, 05:25 PM
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FLPainter FLPainter is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

I'm hoping you'll get many replies. Using photo references is tricky for me; there's always the question of what to leave out. I could use a lesson here.

Your painting is fantastic. You've handled all the details really well and it would be difficult to decide how to simplify. My choice might be the pennants that cross horizontally. I'd leave the ones that lead toward the distant buildings as that distant, sunlit building might be the focal point.
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.
Pablo Picasso
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Old 03-17-2012, 06:27 PM
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Gribbey Gribbey is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Your watercolour does wonders for the photo! My first reaction to your question was to think of a composition more squarely formatted, maybe leaving off the last building on the right and moving the boat forward a bit. Really though, your painting is super as it is!
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Old 03-18-2012, 03:30 AM
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Afriqueen Afriqueen is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Hi Margie and Gribbey
thanks for your input and comments. I posted a similar question on the watercolour forum and had a lot of comments there (The Learning Zone - post titled 'How would you simplify this'). I've now made adjustments to the painting and feel a lot happier - have posted the adjusted version in the Watercolor Gallery. Gribbey - thanks for the comment about the building on the right - I obviously couldn't remove it, but toned it down considerably with a darkish blue/grey wash so it is no longer a 'white' building. This has helped a lot.

Anyone else interested is welcome to comment about composition - I'm keen to learn and would welcome more thoughts.

Painting is silent poetry & poetry is painting with the gift of speech
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Old 03-19-2012, 05:01 AM
Keith2 Keith2 is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

I know Whitby well, it's only 70 miles from where I live.

I've taken pictures of the bridge, but thought the scene was too complex to make a painting of it. I think you have done very well with your painting.
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Old 03-19-2012, 07:23 AM
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loft artist loft artist is online now
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Re: How to compose this scene

'nice one' Gill
my favourite 'holiday' destination too !
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Old 03-24-2012, 08:51 PM
sharkbarf sharkbarf is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

My opinion is that the photo's composition is near perfect.

There is balance between the sky and water where kiddy-corner from each other there are two COI. One being the sun spilling on the building, the other being the boat. Both could be emphasized more so than the rest of the scene.

What I would do it keep every thing slightly less worked than the two spots I mentioned. In those spots sharpen things up, use more detail, or more saturated, brighter colors.
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Buddha suggests to those who need inspiration for their art to go before a perfectly blank wall until it's design, compostion, and subject reveal itself. -Jack Rutherford
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Old 03-26-2012, 11:53 AM
old_hobbyist old_hobbyist is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Exaggerate the essential. Leave the obvious vague - van Gogh
Art is not reality. It is a perception of the artist's reality. Art, really, is all about seeing - Carolyn Anderson
Loose painting doesn't excuse sloppy drawing - Richard Robinson - NZ Plein Air Painter
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:54 PM
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ArtWench ArtWench is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Gorgeous watercolor! The only thing that I might alter is to deepen the sky color just a bit to make the beautiful railing stand out more.

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Old 04-05-2012, 09:30 AM
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jwcarroll jwcarroll is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Wonderful picture and even better watercolor. Only thing I could offer is pull the boat or the bridge as a center of interest and soften out the background where it is really hinted at but not a lot of detail. Guess that is the pastelist in me talking.
You laugh at me because I am different, I laugh at you because you are all the same.
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Old 04-06-2012, 11:59 AM
Morton Morton is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Fantastic job on your watercolour. I'm homesick for Yorkshire now. No, I loved seeing it and it's better than the photo I agree the bunting going horizontally was a bit too much and wasn't helping with the flow also I wasn't struck on the building on the right hand side.
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Old 04-11-2012, 02:56 PM
KJBaker422 KJBaker422 is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

I would probably compose it like this and add something to the sky and add some more reflection like the light spots in the lower left corner.
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Old 04-13-2012, 06:27 PM
AllisonR AllisonR is online now
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Re: How to compose this scene

I agree with KJBaker422's cropping. Makes the composition very strong.

I think your watercolor is lovely. However, I think you have emphasized the big black box below the lamppost, which detracts from "better" points of interest - the boat, the charming buildings, the lamppost on the far left. I think this black is not so overpowering in the original photo because the red under the bridge is dark, a close value to the black lamp post. But in your painting, you lightened the red under the bridge, which had the effect of making the black box under the lamp post pop out more. I would have cheated and made it a dirty grey instead.
Being born places you at a greater risk of dying later in life.

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Old 05-01-2012, 05:10 PM
swan swan is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

I was looking at the photo and decided to play with it in Photoshop. It's a good way to manipulate images before you paint.

You can experiment on how to simplify.

Last edited by swan : 05-01-2012 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 05-24-2012, 01:47 PM
song_bird song_bird is offline
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Re: How to compose this scene

Lovely painting of a harbor town. Complex to tackle such a scene.

For emphasis and to focus the viewer on a coi, I would add more dramatic, moody lighting. Some of that glaring sunset or morning mist, filtering through the buildings, falling on the water and highlighting the boat.

Very well done!

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