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Old 03-15-2017, 07:48 PM
steve.sens steve.sens is offline
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Re: composition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dcam
Here is a painting that seems to break a cardinal rule in composition,


Here's my take on this, if it were my painting... I think I would be looking at the shapes created by the center post, how the negative shapes are further broken up. I like it. Ballsy to place a post dead center. The painting takes on a dyptic type of character where the interest isn't the post, but what is happening in the 2 negative areas. Is it successful? Totally debatable! I don't think it would have the impact if the division was at the thirds or golden ratio positions. It has a very abstract composition, almost Mondrianish, in that he has strong geometrical divisions. Take a look at his other work, Edwin knows how to compose! After learning the rules, I think that one should absolutely break them. Maybe he was sitting on the porch of a beach house and was aggravated about this post in his way blocking his view and wanted to express that! Kinda like going to a ball game and sitting behind a column holding up the roof. Memories of the old Cleveland Stadium! Maybe I'm adding a narrative that isn't there, but we are talking about his art!

Last edited by steve.sens : 03-15-2017 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 03-15-2017, 08:23 PM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Re: composition

Some time back we had a similar discussion on composition here on WC! I find that I still hold firm with much of what I wrote at that time:

Personally I doubt that the majority of the general viewing public have the least concept of what composition is let alone understand it. Yes, they may know what they like... and they may intuitively grasp that a given work of art holds together well... seems successful... just as the "self taught" artist may intuitively grasp what works well in terms of composition... but do the understand the mechanics behind it? I appreciate music. I intuitively grasp the merits of Mozart and Bach... but I have little grasp of the formal mechanics: harmony, counterpoint, etc...

Any formally trained/educated artist studies composition. This is the primary focus of courses on 2 & 3-dimensional design. Formalist discussions of what is or is not "working" are among the primary purposes of group critiques. Through these, one in made aware of the "rules" or rather the manner in which the elements of art and principles of design are organized and to what purpose. One develops an eye for color: harmonious and contrasting. One learns how the visual "weight" of elements can lead to balance... or asymmetry. One learns how contrast in value, color, line, detail, texture, etc... can create focal points and lead the eye around the work. One also learns to recognize "errors" such as poorly placed tangents which lead the eye away from the focal points or out of the painting.

All of this eventually becomes internalized. Working on a painting I rarely consciously analyze the work in terms of composition/design... except when something isn't "working" and I sit back a look at the painting carefully asking myself what isn't working. Most of the time I think of the working process as akin to sitting in the Optomotrist's office where he keeps changing the lens and asking "better or worse?" After years of painting I have a solid grasp of what colors harmonize well... or what color combination "jump" because they contrast. Even so, as I work I am repeatedly making small adjustments to the nuances of the colors and asking myself, "Better or worse? Does it need to be a slight touch warmer or cooler?"

Most of the paintings that I find fail for me are those which show little or no grasp of composition. This is equally true of realism as abstraction. You have those who imagine that all one needs to do is mimic what they see. I remember one student who was incredibly skillful in drawing and painting what she saw before her. She brought a still life painting to a critique that included one object that was painfully placed. I asked why she painted it in such an awkward manner... and she replied, "because it was there." I pointed out that she was an artist... she had the freedom to change things to make them look better... which is essentially what composition is all about.

While composition/design are formally taught, they often seem to be one of the most difficult aspects of art to teach/learn. Of course, we might argue that this is owed to the fact that we all have different tastes... and different eyes. Some develop incredibly diverse and innovative approaches to composition, while others repeatedly employ the same approaches to design/composition... yet with a marvelous variety and great success.

I'd surely like to see more discussions of design and composition whether talking about our own art or that of the "masters".

************************************************** **********

Most artists prior to the late 19th century were apprenticed to practicing "masters". They were exposed to standard compositions employed by their teachers including color harmonies, linear structures, etc... Were there rules of composition consciously employed by the old masters? Most certainly. All you need to do is look at the work of the Mannerists and how they consciously and intentionally employed "rules" of composition, color, etc... that were diametrically opposed to those employed by the artists of the Renaissance in order to recognize just how conscious artists were of the principles of design/rules of composition. You might also look at how innovations in composition/design rapidly spread from one artist/school to others. I know that the French Academy included composition, color harmony and other design elements among the criteria they taught... and among the criteria upon which they judged art.

We generally teach concepts of design or composition as the "Principles of Design" rather than as "rules". One studies design in order to understand how various ways of organizing the elements within a work of art are likely to be perceived.

The "rule of thirds", the "golden ratio", the Fibonacci or Golden Spiral, and other "rules" are simply abstract or artificial means of organizing an image in order to lend it structure or pattern and make it pleasing. Think of these structures in comparison to poetry. The formal structures of a sonnet or ballad or limerick are wholly abstract, but lend a clear form or structure to the works. As artists, however, we are not limited to such formal structures any more than a contemporary poet is limited to the structures of a sonnet or Iambic Pentameter.

Let's look at how one artist employed compositional devices"




The artist wants the viewer to focus upon the face... especially the world-weary eyes. He employs the traditional triangular linear composition in order to set the figure solidly. He then uses the contrast of light against dark in order to make the face (and to a lesser degree, the hands) stand out against the background. He also employs the diagonal of fur to bounce the eyes back and forth between the face and hands (the primary and secondary focal points). The light areas are rendered with a greater degree of detail and greater degree of texture (impasto) as another contrast to the thin washes of the background. The face is rendered with far more detail than the hands holding our attention to an even greater extent... although the hands... blurry though they may be... still clearly suggest an anxious clutching. The artist employed the various design elements to lend a logical structure to the image and to reinforce his intentions. The manner in which he changes the clarity of focus suggests the manner in which we actually see things. Beyond these large compositional decisions, there are endless subtle decisions made as the artist adjusts the brushwork, the harder or softer edges, the subtle nuances of touch and color, etc...

No one would suggest that this is the only way to organize an image.

Botticelli's Primavera...




... and many of Cranach's paintings...



... invert the traditional "figure/ground relationship" or the manner in which detail is employed to create a focus. Both employ a highly detailed ground (background) upon which the figure stands out isolated in its simplicity. It isn't detail that draws the eye, but rather contrast. A blue shape will stand out in a painting that is predominantly red and orange. A simple form will stand out against a painting that is predominantly "busy".

In fact is it necessary to have a focal point?

We have "field paintings" or "all over paintings" by Pollock and Rothko, but most traditional approaches to drawing/painting establish a focal point. Often they employ a secondary and even tertiary focal points. Without any focal point the viewer's eye is going to wander about aimlessly. One of the primary goals of drawing/painting is to give formal structure to a chaotic/structureless world.


Again, the "rules of composition" are more "rules of thumb" than hard scientific laws, and many of the design decisions made are subtle adjustments that are made without conscious analysis of any "rules". Many of these decisions are intuitive and in response to the artist's eye... and yes, some artists have a better eye than others.

Oh... and by the way... I quite like the Dickinson "pole painting". The "awkward" placement of the strong vertical (pole) offers a daring contrast to the over-all understated nature of the painting in terms of touch and color.
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:54 PM
steve.sens steve.sens is offline
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Re: composition

Here is one way that I arrive at a composition for better or worse. The top image is an abstract painting. I do these totally automatic, as in no preconceived idea or expectation of an outcome. Of course aesthetic judgements are made on color, value, etc as the piece evolves. A couple days after painting it, I thought it looked familiar, like a scene I've experienced before. Then it dawned on me, it gave me the impression of a steam engine crossing a bridge. I did another thumbnailish type of painting to begin to get familiar with the idea. I will do more at various scales and substrate to explore the subject. To get to know the details more intimately, I might do a full scale drawing. I dug through my archives and found the bottom image, that the abstract reminded me of. I'm trying hard to break through the idea of painting what an object is vs painting how it is. In this case the details do matter, proportions are relevant and I want to develop a more controlled version of the scene I see in my mind. So in closing, I think automatic type of painting exercises are another way to arrive at a compositional idea. They most defiantly are/can be, an end unto themselves. Often it seems like a more concrete or representational idea is living inside the painting, and carving away at it can reveal a new creation inspired by abstraction.
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Old 03-16-2017, 07:36 AM
Ovid's Exile Ovid's Exile is offline
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Re: composition

The Dickenson is lousy and so is the Newman.
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Old 03-16-2017, 08:10 AM
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Re: composition

The Edwin Dickinson is quite deliberate and part of its success is that it is still annoying people 85 years later Newman's work comes from a different place entirely.
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Old 03-16-2017, 01:29 PM
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Re: composition

steve, the old masters of The day would probably be horrified at the way so many of us create art now - no discipline to speak of at all [comparatively, of course].

i like how your train grew, and how it turned out.
thank goodness paint can be layered/covered/changed or i'd have Way more rejects than i do!

la
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Old 03-16-2017, 11:33 PM
Ovid's Exile Ovid's Exile is offline
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Re: composition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alerio
The Edwin Dickinson is quite deliberate and part of its success is that it is still annoying people 85 years later Newman's work comes from a different place entirely.
That's what great art does, annoy people.
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Old 03-17-2017, 05:33 AM
steve.sens steve.sens is offline
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Re: composition

Quote:
Originally Posted by La_
steve, the old masters of The day would probably be horrified at the way so many of us create art now - no discipline to speak of at all [comparatively, of course].

I don't know La, they might be envious of the freedom!

I chew on this idea from time to time because there are many differences from then and now. We can go just down the road, relatively speaking, and pick up supplies, OR have them dropped off at our door. We don't have to create our own paints, substrates, lighting is ample. We have the ability to create plenty of bombs and not really be to concerned about it! I guess the amount of planning in a composition is dictated by the amount of labor required in the execution of the final form. For example, the railroad piece will have to have the details planned out to achieve what I see in my mind, but the gesture or dynamics of the composition are there for the most part. My approach is really nothing more then a glamorous thumbnail that was born out of years of doing gesture drawings. I would do gestures of the masters art as part of the note taking process during the 5 years of art history I took. At some point, the gestures took on a life of their own and I could relate to what the abstract expressionists like Franz Kline were doing back in the 40s.

So I guess that the theory compositional organization seems to be ingrained as part of the formal training, like what David was saying. When executing a piece, the rules naturally come up as part of the decision making process. Something doesn't quite fit right, so lets look at the rules and see what can be done. I think much of the grid work is totally after the fact, as subjects are bound to fit in proximity in one fashion or another. It is so interesting to see how composition relates to the old masters as compared to the contemporary masters. SO MANY GREAT COMMENTS AND PERSPECTIVES IN THIS THREAD! Wet canvas is turning into a real cool place to stir the creative pot, and I'm glad there are so many willing to voice their views.

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Old 03-17-2017, 02:39 PM
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Re: composition

i'm sure they'd be envious of some of the freedoms, there certainly have been many advancements of convenience. they'd surely be boggled with the options.

lol, i wonder what DaVinci would think of Hirst, or Vangogh of Picasso

but i also wonder if 'cadmium red hue' would be tossed aside as 'garbage' when one is used to 'real' color. much like comparing fresh squeezed orange juice, to Tang or sunny d or kool-aid.

la
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:52 PM
BeLing BeLing is offline
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Re: composition

Do you have to be educated to appreciate art? I wonder how much more we'd appreciate paintings if we didn't know any rules. Or would it be less?!

For myself, rules and principles are tools for analysis when things go wrong. To START with, say, a proper grid would be stifling. I'm not saying it's bad idea, just that, for me, the abstract part is something I enjoy finding (or in despair, NOT finding) while working though a drawing or painting.
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Old 03-17-2017, 06:19 PM
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Re: composition

Quote:
Originally Posted by La_
...but i also wonder if 'cadmium red hue' would be tossed aside as 'garbage' when one is used to 'real' color. much like comparing fresh squeezed orange juice, to Tang or sunny d or kool-aid.

la

Cadmium red hue might get tossed but he might have taken a shine to Cadmium Red.
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Old 03-17-2017, 06:39 PM
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Re: composition

BeLing, I don't think so, to view/appreciate art.
But to create it, the basics sure come in handy and save time and effort that might otherwise be wasted making newbie mistakes.

la
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Old 03-18-2017, 03:56 PM
DebbieO DebbieO is offline
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Re: composition

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeLing
Do you have to be educated to appreciate art? I wonder how much more we'd appreciate paintings if we didn't know any rules. Or would it be less?!

For myself, rules and principles are tools for analysis when things go wrong. To START with, say, a proper grid would be stifling. I'm not saying it's bad idea, just that, for me, the abstract part is something I enjoy finding (or in despair, NOT finding) while working though a drawing or painting.

In some cases it may be less....

One annoying quality of a lot of people in critiques is to bicker over the correctness of light sources, anatomy or other things not because what's before them is incorrect, but because it doesn't align with the theory as they understood it. Or if something is problematic with the composition not because it actually is but because of the rules.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:46 PM
BeLing BeLing is offline
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Re: composition

Speaking of contemporary freedom, I'll never forget what's-his-name who was a visiting printmaker from the Netherlands. He carried around with him a small plate which he worked on constantly: very, very intricate tight etching of a lace-like, geometric design.

He told us, almost despairingly, that "You Americans have such freedom!" In his world, artists always had the Great Masters looking over their shoulders.
He was kind of gloomy.
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:32 PM
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Re: composition

yeah, mr. netherlands hopefully finds a looser puddle of art to play in, if for no other reason than to save his sanity. we are our own jailers sometimes.

la
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