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Old 06-13-2009, 08:04 AM
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creativechrissy creativechrissy is offline
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Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Currently I am reading a few books on (mastering) composition and have been told about the "rules". Now we all know of them or soon learn of these compositional rules such as golden mean, rule of thirds, asymmetry of composition creates interest, odds are more appealing and hold to the eye, NEVER put the focal point in the middle etc etc.

So as an artist who wishes to succeed and have successful accomplished paintings, I adhere to these rules.

But is there known artworks or even just artworks that have sold that don't follow these rules but still somehow work or are appealing?

What are your thoughts on compositional rules and why do they work so well? So does that mean I should never do a still life with just two fruits because 2 is an even number and therefore the composition will be unpleasing and not work?
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Old 06-13-2009, 12:32 PM
Keith2 Keith2 is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

I don't think they are rules. They are a collection of ideas about what makes a painting interesting, yet you don't have to follow them. Did Jackson Pollock follow any rules? What about the painting by Degas (The Parade)where a horse and rider are cropped at the edge of the canvas? Unorthodox compositions but they work well.
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Old 06-14-2009, 05:48 PM
MikeN MikeN is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Quote:
Originally Posted by creativechrissy
Currently I am reading a few books on (mastering) composition and have been told about the "rules". Now we all know of them or soon learn of these compositional rules such as golden mean, rule of thirds, asymmetry of composition creates interest, odds are more appealing and hold to the eye, NEVER put the focal point in the middle etc etc.

So as an artist who wishes to succeed and have successful accomplished paintings, I adhere to these rules.

But is there known artworks or even just artworks that have sold that don't follow these rules but still somehow work or are appealing?

What are your thoughts on compositional rules and why do they work so well? So does that mean I should never do a still life with just two fruits because 2 is an even number and therefore the composition will be unpleasing and not work?

I think this paragraph by Arnheim works for what you are asking as well. Just remember it's never as easy as a formula. Rather, it's about the significant RELATIONSHIPS between things such as the form (its design) to the content (what the work says).

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...hlight=arnheim

In short, make arrangments that work for YOU!

Last edited by MikeN : 06-14-2009 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 07-08-2009, 03:28 AM
b123 b123 is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Painting is too complex for simple rules, although they are definitely helpful.

I think it is better to think of them as guidelines rather than rules. Use these guidelines as a way of finding out what is the problem with a painting after it has been done. Trust your own judgement to decide if your painting is interesting or not.

If you are not happy with your painting, try to work out why? It may be that you have put your center of interest right in the middle of the painting, or that you have divided all the space into shapes of equal size. (Both of these violate some key guidelines).

On the other hand by not following the guidelines, you may come up with some innovative and interesting compositions. However it is nearly always best to be very familiar with the guidelines before you start to break them. The more knowledge you have the better your paintings are likely to be.

Barry John
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Old 07-13-2009, 10:34 AM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Edgar Payne, in "Composition of Outdoor Painting" talks about committing your time and life as an artist to learning fundamental principles with the aim that eventually, in your maturing as an artist...you are able to operate and work from the gut hunch, from instinct and intuition. So your entire focus is on the work, and you get into that creative zone...

Fundamental principles are going to be different for genres that have different aims.

A construction worker working with steel and concrete has to understand principles of design differently from someone constructing with canvas and wood struts. Both are legitimate areas of design.

Keith mentioned Pollock, and while I enjoy the reading, the watching of a number of videos now on Pollock, I don't process, don't have the same aims that he did working the work he did. Truth is...as conservators and art experts discuss Pollock's work, it is nearly impossible for copiers to pull off and create a Pollock work. Enough is known about his processing, and manner of application of paint...and what was known ONLY to Pollock, and I would argue that he had devised for himself some pretty unique fundamental principles which we could call I suppose, "rules."

Then...if one such as I were to even entertain the idea of trying to paint like Pollock...it would be erroneous on my part not to consider what his fundamental working ordering and thinking processes were in creating a work of art.

There are very unique artists who arrive at mastering a genre in a fashion they have long worked thru...but each push to push the painting begins with a sense of where you have taken paintings thus far, that is your "manner" of working and you very thoughtfully and intensely organize your principles to adjust a minor thing here, an attempt or new aim to see where you can bring it.

If you are entirely out of the arena of the set of guiding fundamentals you have long devised for yourself, you are not even able to judge to what degree this "push" means then for you, for it then is like comparing baking a pie to landscaping your yard. Unrelated.

There are broad principles or rules that a whole discipline in the education arena can build a major in called "Communication and the Arts"...I having one of those majors myself, and for the sake of waging a campaign in the marketplace of ideas...an intense study based on years of research that comes from the free market for one. How the eye catches what it is the advertiser for example wants to sell.

Do one thing for a period of months, change the advertisement, keep records...do another thing for a period of months and compare. This has been going on for decades and decades 'til nearly a science of consumerism begins to know what appeals to the eye, and thus the pocketbook.

In a world thus, bombarded with images...billboards, magazines, television and theater, the internet and folks learning to go about their every day to day business, there is a way for the mind to filter OUT what is not necessary, so that as you are driving down the highway at 70 mph changing lanes in a four way lane...your attention is on driving while perhaps talking thru a headset to your boss at work. Who knows..whatever.

Commercial design has this level of study to try and understand how the mind works, how it disconnects from the image bombardment, constantly aiming to interrupt the disconnect. To do so...principles of operandi have come to exist.

You get to know what works for the art form (realistic, contemporary modernism, expressionism) your heart interest lies, then what is understood in general of sound masterful work within subject content of those forms like portraiture, landscape and so forth.

As you mature, you can then say...."ahhh...here lies the work of an artist that truly is a master of his form, his style...and this is a wonderful painting!"

How can we come to such a personal decision if we have no guiding principles or fundamentals?

As I have oft said, even to keep my own self on track...paintings work for reasons paintings work. Now...the cleverness is what you do with those principles.

Can rules be broken?

Absolutely...but, there are I think two motives for breaking rules, and one of them is simple heading toward one's own self-destruction as an artist. In my opinion anyway...and that is where one's sense of what it means to be free in the world, a valued individual...sees creativity as a domain that no other person shall have a right to say anything. Creativity in their thinking is a sacred cow...and rebellion or breaking of rules is more to demonstrate their right to be independent. The art exists to give them life, whereas they are less interested in the art having life itself to exist apart from the artist. To stand on its own.

The second...is to know what rule or principle you've developed or worked with that you are going to be breaking, and why?

If you are going to exercise creative license to break rules, do so...and know why. That it will have an anticipated effect or outcome in your work. Perhaps to create visual tension that will connect to the subject's theme. Perhaps to express horror and tragedy, great sorrow...you want the viewer to feel uncomfortable.

You may intentionally throw visual space in the painting off so no apparent "typical" pictorial balance exists, causing the eye the aesthetic soul of the viewer to squirm and feel uncomfortable giving the work greater power to move the viewer.

The first seventeen years of my painting career I aimed for hyper realism and detail in a genre and area agents/reps, publishers, collectors and patrons demanded it. Excellence as an artist, who was going to get represented, brought into the public's eye...etc., was determined by who out-detailed and understood the subject better than another. Putting 200 to 300 hours into a single painting. Then, about fifteen years ago I experienced the angst of getting ripped off big time, while about the same time had an epiphany moment encountering another artist's work.

You better believe I was facing very pertinent and apparent adjustments in my principles, what would become new foundational guiding rules that would then redefine who I was as an artist, and what expectations would come of work I would do that might be considered good from that point on.

Yes indeed, rules exist...but its like building a new patio and you are looking thru the guiding how-to self help books at Home Depot. You do not need the guiding rules to landscaping your back yard, so you ignore that help book. You do not need the "How to Build a Garage" so you ignore that book. You want the one that says, "Ideas and Methods to Patio Construction!"

Same with painting or art making. One artist throws off the accepted genre rules and principles of the times to go his or her way, but s/he creates a new set of rules knowingly or unknowingly that orients a new direction and gives rudder to successfully anticipate and steer their way.

I love Barry's work above...but I have been looking at a number of artist's work knowing I have come to a certain place in my own painting. A place where I've been adjusting and adjusting my guiding fundamental rules a long time, and see then in Barry's work...and the work of a number of others...Burdick, Bill Wray, Schmid, Bato Dugarzhapov...on and on something that touches on a direction I'm slowly methodically pushing myself.

I move slowly...because I respect my work is still my own and cannot escape my own skin...but I definitely sense what I like and can articulate the specifics because of fundamental things I am well aware of.

long rant...but hope that helps...

Larry
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 07-13-2009 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:19 PM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

http://emptyeasel.com/2007/04/09/a-s...-rules-of-art/
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Old 07-27-2009, 10:11 PM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Rules ! never read them , probably never will ! but 'guidelines' sounds more eloquent and less authoritarian , I think most people can tell when a painting is 'Off' just by looking at it , I don't think any one 'wouldn't' buy a Monet or picasso or any painting that wasn't within the rules ,
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Old 08-21-2009, 06:35 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

larry,,,could you condense this into a shorty story, please.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LarrySeiler
Edgar Payne, in "Composition of Outdoor Painting" talks about committing your time and life as an artist to learning fundamental principles with the aim that eventually, in your maturing as an artist...you are able to operate and work from the gut hunch, from instinct and intuition. So your entire focus is on the work, and you get into that creative zone...

Fundamental principles are going to be different for genres that have different aims.

A construction worker working with steel and concrete has to understand principles of design differently from someone constructing with canvas and wood struts. Both are legitimate areas of design.

Keith mentioned Pollock, and while I enjoy the reading, the watching of a number of videos now on Pollock, I don't process, don't have the same aims that he did working the work he did. Truth is...as conservators and art experts discuss Pollock's work, it is nearly impossible for copiers to pull off and create a Pollock work. Enough is known about his processing, and manner of application of paint...and what was known ONLY to Pollock, and I would argue that he had devised for himself some pretty unique fundamental principles which we could call I suppose, "rules."

Then...if one such as I were to even entertain the idea of trying to paint like Pollock...it would be erroneous on my part not to consider what his fundamental working ordering and thinking processes were in creating a work of art.

There are very unique artists who arrive at mastering a genre in a fashion they have long worked thru...but each push to push the painting begins with a sense of where you have taken paintings thus far, that is your "manner" of working and you very thoughtfully and intensely organize your principles to adjust a minor thing here, an attempt or new aim to see where you can bring it.

If you are entirely out of the arena of the set of guiding fundamentals you have long devised for yourself, you are not even able to judge to what degree this "push" means then for you, for it then is like comparing baking a pie to landscaping your yard. Unrelated.

There are broad principles or rules that a whole discipline in the education arena can build a major in called "Communication and the Arts"...I having one of those majors myself, and for the sake of waging a campaign in the marketplace of ideas...an intense study based on years of research that comes from the free market for one. How the eye catches what it is the advertiser for example wants to sell.

Do one thing for a period of months, change the advertisement, keep records...do another thing for a period of months and compare. This has been going on for decades and decades 'til nearly a science of consumerism begins to know what appeals to the eye, and thus the pocketbook.

In a world thus, bombarded with images...billboards, magazines, television and theater, the internet and folks learning to go about their every day to day business, there is a way for the mind to filter OUT what is not necessary, so that as you are driving down the highway at 70 mph changing lanes in a four way lane...your attention is on driving while perhaps talking thru a headset to your boss at work. Who knows..whatever.

Commercial design has this level of study to try and understand how the mind works, how it disconnects from the image bombardment, constantly aiming to interrupt the disconnect. To do so...principles of operandi have come to exist.

You get to know what works for the art form (realistic, contemporary modernism, expressionism) your heart interest lies, then what is understood in general of sound masterful work within subject content of those forms like portraiture, landscape and so forth.

As you mature, you can then say...."ahhh...here lies the work of an artist that truly is a master of his form, his style...and this is a wonderful painting!"

How can we come to such a personal decision if we have no guiding principles or fundamentals?

As I have oft said, even to keep my own self on track...paintings work for reasons paintings work. Now...the cleverness is what you do with those principles.

Can rules be broken?

Absolutely...but, there are I think two motives for breaking rules, and one of them is simple heading toward one's own self-destruction as an artist. In my opinion anyway...and that is where one's sense of what it means to be free in the world, a valued individual...sees creativity as a domain that no other person shall have a right to say anything. Creativity in their thinking is a sacred cow...and rebellion or breaking of rules is more to demonstrate their right to be independent. The art exists to give them life, whereas they are less interested in the art having life itself to exist apart from the artist. To stand on its own.

The second...is to know what rule or principle you've developed or worked with that you are going to be breaking, and why?

If you are going to exercise creative license to break rules, do so...and know why. That it will have an anticipated effect or outcome in your work. Perhaps to create visual tension that will connect to the subject's theme. Perhaps to express horror and tragedy, great sorrow...you want the viewer to feel uncomfortable.

You may intentionally throw visual space in the painting off so no apparent "typical" pictorial balance exists, causing the eye the aesthetic soul of the viewer to squirm and feel uncomfortable giving the work greater power to move the viewer.

The first seventeen years of my painting career I aimed for hyper realism and detail in a genre and area agents/reps, publishers, collectors and patrons demanded it. Excellence as an artist, who was going to get represented, brought into the public's eye...etc., was determined by who out-detailed and understood the subject better than another. Putting 200 to 300 hours into a single painting. Then, about fifteen years ago I experienced the angst of getting ripped off big time, while about the same time had an epiphany moment encountering another artist's work.

You better believe I was facing very pertinent and apparent adjustments in my principles, what would become new foundational guiding rules that would then redefine who I was as an artist, and what expectations would come of work I would do that might be considered good from that point on.

Yes indeed, rules exist...but its like building a new patio and you are looking thru the guiding how-to self help books at Home Depot. You do not need the guiding rules to landscaping your back yard, so you ignore that help book. You do not need the "How to Build a Garage" so you ignore that book. You want the one that says, "Ideas and Methods to Patio Construction!"

Same with painting or art making. One artist throws off the accepted genre rules and principles of the times to go his or her way, but s/he creates a new set of rules knowingly or unknowingly that orients a new direction and gives rudder to successfully anticipate and steer their way.

I love Barry's work above...but I have been looking at a number of artist's work knowing I have come to a certain place in my own painting. A place where I've been adjusting and adjusting my guiding fundamental rules a long time, and see then in Barry's work...and the work of a number of others...Burdick, Bill Wray, Schmid, Bato Dugarzhapov...on and on something that touches on a direction I'm slowly methodically pushing myself.

I move slowly...because I respect my work is still my own and cannot escape my own skin...but I definitely sense what I like and can articulate the specifics because of fundamental things I am well aware of.

long rant...but hope that helps...

Larry

[color="Red"]
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Old 08-22-2009, 04:50 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

there's only one universal rule in placing your forms on a surface.......DO YOU HAVE CLARITY.

there is no right way or wrong way more important than this simple goal.

example: apart from my quick errors, the mistake in this example should be obvious. this is a perfectly "correct" composition, an image of which your camera can take on any street in america. yet, it is a bad composition because it creates a bad illusion. so, your job is to clarify, whether it's placement of shapes, simplifying values, coordinating color, whatever.
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Old 08-23-2009, 12:52 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Yes< Yes< Yes!!!!!!
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Old 08-23-2009, 01:07 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Thank you, Milt. I suddenly understand.
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:51 AM
T.Wayne T.Wayne is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Im a believer in that following rules in painting and art is that your only setting yourself back.
Each piece i do i learn a great deal of what to do, what not to do and what my likes and dislikes are. It really comes down to the artist and what theyre limitations are and what they are willing to do.
I say dont follow the lines, make you focus point in the center, put color that dont complement eachother next to eachother.
What im saying is, dont hold yourself back on what is the "norm"

Last edited by T.Wayne : 08-23-2009 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 08-26-2009, 03:11 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

as this in a general question about composition(as opposed to the other more painting specific threads) i though i might take this opportunity to start talking about things to avoid in composition,,,and i'll start with placement of shapes on a page. understand that i am talking about realism nothing else......

avoid symmetry. this is the killer of all killers to composition in realism. "symmetry" in this case is an all-inclusive term. it can mean "alignment",,,in fact alignment might be a better term. alignments tend to flatten space because alignments creates geometric patterns which in turn creates unwanted flattening.

one of the reasons your high school art teacher told you never to place things dead center is because dead center makes an object inert,,,there is no movement, ie movement is created when you place things off center because the varied negative space around it allows the eye to interpret neg space against neg space..this creates "movement" of a sort. placing a object dead center means all the neg space around it is equal,,,and dead, thus the movement "goes inward" rather than around the space. in a sense, dead center is symmetrical, is it not? because all neg space is "aligned".


however, for the purposes of the OP's query, you can use dead center if you understand what it does to the composition. for instance, i would used dead center if i wanted to create a monolithic figure....if i DON'T want your eye to move around neg space but rather focus directly on the monolithic figure.

but in most cases of realism, alignments should be avoided. if i gave to a blank square sheet and 32 small black squares and asked you to arrange the squares any way you wanted, you would probably make large clusters, small clusters, individual squares floating around,,,all creating the effect of movement because your eye moves in, out, and around these clusters. that's the illusion of realism, to make the eye sense depth. IF YOU WERE TO ALIGN THE SMALL SQUARES, you would get a checkerboard,,,a geometric, symmetrical, aligned checkerboard. oh, and guess what,,,,this checkerboard makes the space flat, no depth, all elements having equal importance.

just as in my telephone poles example,,,they are aligned at the top to the horizon, so instead of the illusion of the road going into deep distance, the alignment has flattened the composition.


the problem is, the mind naturally tends to align things...everyone does it subconsciously, so it's something you have to look out for. another example of alignments is creating tangents. see http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=579165 tangents is placing one object butt up against another, thus creating 2-d instead of 3-d space....this is what the artist did with the horse's nose and owner's head. tangents are alignments.
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Last edited by bruin70 : 08-26-2009 at 03:17 AM.
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Old 08-29-2009, 04:38 PM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Thank you for this clear explaination - much appreciated.
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Old 08-30-2009, 06:34 AM
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

another oft repeated mistake in composition is "repetitive form" this occurs when people mirror the silhouette of a shape with another similar shape. this happens in many ways, but one that happens often is when people want to put an object behind another but are too timid about it for fear of disturbing the sanctity of the 1st object. they have spent so much time drawing the first object, they don't want to disturb it.

another repetitive form mistake is just that...creating shapes that repeat each other. a good example is when people paint clouds. their clouds tend to mirror each other. like "just clouds" in open critique. the two center clouds mirror each other, and the three in the back have the same "weight".

it's the mind's eye seeking quiet symmetry.
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Last edited by bruin70 : 08-30-2009 at 06:41 AM.

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