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Old 08-30-2009, 03:06 PM
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bruin70 bruin70 is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

this is an example of "repetitive form" http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=580377

the thigh - lower leg - arm on the right are all the same and repetitive in shape and size, creating a geometry that hurts the realism.
"it's alright to be judgmental,,,,,,,,if you have taste"...MILT
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Old 09-02-2009, 05:09 PM
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SusanEleven SusanEleven is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

oh, yes, the sanctity of the drawing - I have been guilty of this many times. I like how you clearly explain the logic of these compositional errors. Sometimes I will look at a painting and know it doesnt work but am not able to identify why not. Your explanations will help me analyze my own thought processes and decisions more clearly. Thank you.
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Old 09-12-2009, 04:07 PM
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Purleyfineart Purleyfineart is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

There are lots of situations like this, not just in art. The fact is that these are not compositional 'rules', they are in reality 'best practice'. Now ask yourself - am I going to disregard best practice? Myself, I would have to be very sure that I knew what I was doing to say yes. (But it's not impossible, just unlikely).

Last edited by Purleyfineart : 09-12-2009 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 09-12-2009, 07:18 PM
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Colorix Colorix is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Yes, it may work splendidly. But 'may' is the operative word.

As someone mentioned (sorry, I'm on page two, can see page one and name the poster), placing something in the dead centre will make it extremely easy for the viewer to find what is important. So if that is what you want, then that method is the best. Any of the 'rules' work in reverse, too.

A painting is more intriguing and exciting for the brain to look at if the brain gets do do some work. So while humans have a strong tendency for symmetry, we (our brains) easily get bored by the expected and of repeated intervals and shapes. That is really the truth behind the 'rules' I too prefer to regards as guidelines.

Personally, I just can't remember all the 'steelyards' and the 15 or so other compositional rules, so I make it easier for myself:

Avoid 'Union Jack' lines. Corner to corner, and dividing in half horizontally and vertically.
Place area of interest in the vicinity of a crossing of thirds, or in the golden mean (usually near enough to be virtually the same spot).
Avoid repeating shapes or intervals between them. Even a picket fence gets more interesting if one picket is shorter or slanted.
Try to have unequal ratio of light/dark.
A lone small object may have the similar visual weight as a larger, or even greater. (That famous 'steelyard'.)
Never let outlines of objects 'smooch', or 'kiss'. That is, avoid tangents, space them, or overlap. That one I regard as a rule. The only one.

I could happily lead the eye to the dead center, with two apples in it, by having 'union jack' lines leading in, but I'd know it'd be a bit static. But that might be just exactly what I *want* to say in the painting.

Will a painting of two pears work? Yes, it will. Especially with a bit of variation, like one lying on its side, as that will 'ruffle' the tidyness. The cast shadow of the two pears may also do work as a third 'object'.

Do what works for you, and take a look at many of the master, both modern and old, and see all the rules they've broken, and still their work hangs in museums and are oh:ed and ah:ed over. :-)


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Old 09-12-2009, 10:07 PM
MikeN MikeN is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

IMO, formulas are great for teaching and helping to think beyond our natural (often simplistic) tendencies, but ultimately they become their own limitation. The true greats defy formulaic thinking. Some lead, some follow.

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Last edited by MikeN : 09-12-2009 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 09-14-2009, 06:07 PM
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Doug Nykoe Doug Nykoe is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

I love Piet Mondrian; he really showed us the limits of composition in 2d space and brought us to the precipice of intuition.

I like this pic, it reminds me that rational thought ends here dealing with compositional procedure or process and Intuition begins with faith to take that first step beyond the rules.

What a great lesson in composition for me back when in college of Art and Design but I have to admit I really did not fully understand the inner workings of his insight at the time, till I got more experience under my belt to appreciate what he did in showing us the limitations we will encounter with formulaic comps. It sure was a great lesson and many thanks to modern art for providing such.

The rules are great in as much as a getting the engine started but after that you are on your own and no amount of rational thought will get you out of this one.

Originally Posted by MikeN
IMO, formulas are great for teaching and helping to think beyond our natural (often simplistic) tendencies, but ultimately they become their own limitation. The true greats defy formulaic thinking. Some lead, some follow.


Boy is Morandi exceptional or what? Like a fine wine just getting better with age. He broke the simplistic wall but just barely and that’s what’s so compelling about this guy and the drama he produced with so little is just, well .... beautiful. Thanks for the reminder Mike N.

An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all. Paul Cézanne
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Old 10-20-2009, 02:28 PM
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lorigray lorigray is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Welcome Mr. Raybould,

We are so lucky to have some of you famous artist here on Wetcanvas. Harley Brown is also a member. I look forward to your comments!
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Old 10-28-2009, 04:17 AM
charlestoncaine charlestoncaine is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

As with music and culinary arts there are in fact rules or laws that define the "sweet spot" for human beings.
No different with visual art or design.
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Old 12-03-2009, 10:40 AM
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Alex Sunder Alex Sunder is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Chklóvski was the one who started writing about the theory of desautomatization (breaking the automatic ways of seeing pictures). When you break this rules, you create some kind of strangeness. This strangeness can kept attention of observers. I think it´s a great theory and with this you´re stepping up into the world of contemporary art. This is concept, and it should be great to stick to any artists thinking.

"The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important." (Shklovsky, "Art as Technique", 12)


Personally, I think it´s very interesting, and the idea can generate great art.
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:06 PM
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birdhs birdhs is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Personally, just for me, I have read dozens of how to books and it wasn't until I enrolled in some local art classes at the local college that I actually began to fully comprehend what I had read.

Just for me, I need to learn and comprehend the "rules" so I can begin to get some structure into my basics. I am certainly intelligent enough to ignore the rules once I learn them, once taught the basics I cannot comprehend being a slave to them for the rest of my life.... unless I choose to do so. ......

Thanx 2 all of u who posted, the comments have ben helpful to me also....
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Old 12-19-2009, 03:01 PM
makinart makinart is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Hi Lori and all,
I have to admit that composition is a doozer and something that is almost mystical in concept. Like how do we explain "love."

I remember reading everything I could about design in a painting and even asked many of my mentors if there was a way of getting on top of it.
They claimed it was the most important part of a painting; that without design and values, a painting falls apart. Good drawing only gets it so far. I have to agree. And for years I worked at it. Figuring fundamentals like:
***A painting should have a dominant value: dark, medium, light.
***Horizontals and verticals are stable; angles give movement.
***Look for lost edges. Understand them. Soft edges also.

I found my best teacher was and is Mother Nature; I'd sketch, rocks, trees, clouds and mountains. Those interesting designs I saw with shapes and shadows were monumental and began to get into my thinking as I drew. The more I drew the more it started coming to me, even subliminally.

Most of the artists I've known are humbled by what Nature gives us; strengthening their abilities to "edit" what they see: Change a hillside, the details of a necklace, simplify a cloud. In other words, more involvement, (give and take with Nature,) develops our sense and approach in design.

cheers, Harley
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:24 PM
makinart makinart is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Just one more thought.

I do like rebels; rebels who have prepared themselves for their journey.
But even more important are those rebels themselves and how they feel about their personal pursuits. The more they know the basis of what they're doing, the more they can make their eccentric trip become real.

We can think of many "rebels" who eventually did things their way. Even Rembrandt took some great leaps of faith. How about Cezanne, Van Gogh,
Matisse, Brando, Kerouak and yes, The Beatles? Whatever our opinions, these people had an understanding of their crafts and using the power within, went their own way.

To bring it home, I don't know myself, and at this point, am not really interested. I know what I do and have great joy in doing it. I suppose I have a certain personality and, (as opposed to my youth when I fought shyness,
paranoia, and an assortment of other things,) don't think inwardly about it too much. As Popeye said, "I am what I am." I don't even know if I'm a rebel. Maybe to other people, but to myself, I'm as normal as orange marmalade.

Yet, you and I can see others who rebel. We observe them from the outside. We notice their differences, maybe much more than they can see themselves.

Each day as artists, we should develop and do whatever
brings passion and inspiration into our lives. Rebel or be complacent; good days and not so good. We are who we are, and most of us are unique individuals; something we sometimes forget. Harley

Last edited by makinart : 12-19-2009 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:12 AM
ArtsyAnnie ArtsyAnnie is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

What a good question you asked - - -
Start looking at winning pieces in art competitions! Almost all show a greast knowledge about the rules/guidelines. But they show a greater ability to break the rules at just the right place and time to make their gut level statemet in the painting. Caution: as you do this, remember that the judge's vision is a big part of the winnning choice - I had one piece win Best of Show in one show and not be accepted for another show. It is the viewer's response to your vision that makes it or breaks it!
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:56 PM
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jmcedeno jmcedeno is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

One thing I have learned from experience is that when I apply the rules of the "game" the finished work turns out better. If the viewer is an experience artist he/she analyzes the work differently than the general public that do not look for the rules of design and composition. Example: I had two landscape paintings in a show, one complied with all the rules and got very good reviews; the other broke all the rules and got good reviews, also and it sold.
"Painting is easy when you do not know how, but very difficult when you do"
"If you ignore beauty you will soon find yourself without it.But, if you invest in beauty it will remain with you all the days of your life"
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Old 12-30-2009, 07:14 PM
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mburrell mburrell is offline
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Re: Does rebelling against compositional rules work?

Well,well ,well! That rule about symmetry was very enlightening. Particularity in regards to realism. I will have to tear myself away from the notions I picked up from these guy below.

Mike N had a link to this discussion that made an important point read it!
There are many tools regarding composition which work in themselves but are subordinate to the whole piece and must work well with other tools in the piece. Each stroke in a painting each color ,line, texture becomes related to each other and the whole. Having an intention or direction or goal helps one decide with the help of the piece itself what to do. Does it work? It's a game. The more studies of the tools, that become internalized, the more natural and intuitive the work becomes. One can start with a rule breaker or design problem and solve it. This happens it commercial art all the time. Not learning about visual, psychological relationships as a grounding will limit the range one can bring to a work on a ready basis. The inquiry into process also brings a dimension to a work that has compositional relevance. I'm not saying one can not create good relevant work without a good deal of knowledge of composition, I'm saying that a good piece will have it, a good composition, if only by accident or by feel.
Larry I think I'm less long winded than you, not sure? Good topic.
Mike B
PS a study of art criticism would help introduce an artist to a visual vocabulary that would foster their exploration of composition. I think!

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