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Old 04-20-2019, 11:03 PM
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Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

My brain wants to put everything it sees into the painting. It isn't possible. I've been told to "use my artists eye" to filter elements out and only paint what is essential. I have no intuition for this and it causes me to avoid anything but single element still lifes. I can take one thing out of a complex photo but pleine air is out of scope. I'd like to progress.

Is anyone aware of tutorials, videos, books or anything that can help with training my brain to filter out all but the essentials to compose a good scene? I know I just need practice but I don't know how to start. I've tried using random reference photos for practice but I always try to put everything in, I'm not sure how to filter. Youtube or online is fine but a dvd/video or book would be better for me. Any suggestions at all are appreciated and will be attempted.

Thanks.

Last edited by __Eric__ : 04-20-2019 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 04-21-2019, 03:06 AM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

I found the tips links in my siggy helpful -
Leave some calming areas , so the eye can rest and painting is not overly busy.
Does this object enhance the scene or not/is it really needed or not?
Where is the focal area and is there a interesting visual path that helps me move thru the painting to it.
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Old 04-21-2019, 09:49 AM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

Well...this is a common problem for many early painters. Welcome to the group!

My suggestion: before starting to paint, figure out what story you want the painting to tell. What idea, emotion, feeling you want to share. Identify your point of interest, or your area interest, i.e., the "star" of the painting; the most important thing in the painting.

When you have identified the "star" of your painting, remember that everything else--everything--is secondary and has only one role: to support the star and direct the viewer's attention to that star.

Ruthlessly eliminate everything which is competitive with the star or which is not needed to direct attention to the star and support the viewer's focus on the star.

A final point: if you are doing landscapes, keep in mind there are up to three planes in a landscape--foreground, middle ground and background. Not every landscape has all three planes but many do. Whatever plane is the one where your "star" is located is the most important plane. The remaining planes are simply secondary and exist only to get the viewer's eye to the most important plane and the "star". Downplay the secondary planes and focus your attention on the important plane.

Said differently, don't throw a lot of detail into the foreground if the star lives in the middle ground or background.

Good luck with your painting!

Sling paint,
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Old 04-22-2019, 04:40 AM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

You have already received some great advice so I will try add a little to it.
In my experience and from teaching, I have found that you can spend more time looking at tutorials, reading books,etc than study.

What you need to do is actually practice. The easiest method and one which I teach is to put yourself together a folder or collection of paintings you admire and enjoy. It doesn't matter if its landscapes,portraits,etc, just something you enjoy and inspires you.
Next, draw them out with a time limit of 20 minutes. Make little thumbnail sketches. Concentrate on big shapes and light and shadow relationships. At the end of 20 minutes, write some notes under each about the composition and what you have learned. Whats the light source, how do we read the composition. How has the artist done this or that. This will force your brain to draw with a reason, and not just mindless copy. Do an absolute minimum of 1 per day. After 100, you will see such a difference to your work. Better if you can do an hour at least. Remember its not about the drawings here. Its an exercise, not a work of art. No need to show anyone them. Work on inexpensive paper. I suggest the little "post it" stick pads. They are a great size and you can carry them anywhere with a pen and draw anytime. A4 printer paper is cheap and great too. All you need is a pen or HB pencil.

When your learning, its a long road, when you become a more experienced painter, its still a long road. Its a skill that requires more than one lifetime to master. Don't be in a rush, take your time and enjoy the journey. Put in the time and learn the fundamentals and you will be rewarded. Happy painting


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Old 04-22-2019, 05:03 PM
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__Eric__ __Eric__ is offline
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ~JMW~
I found the tips links in my siggy helpful -
Leave some calming areas ...
Hi JMW, thanks for the suggestions and the link.

Quote:
Originally Posted by virgil carter
Well...this is a common problem for many early painters. Welcome to the group!
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by virgil carter
... When you have identified the "star" of your painting, remember that everything else--everything--is secondary and has only one role: to support the star and direct the viewer's attention to that star.

I think this is exactly what my issue is I can find the "star" and I end up just having a single element and then give up because my brain wants to put in everything else in the reference too. Kitchen sink and all and so I leave it as a single element stand alone. The reason I am looking for a tutorial is that if I can watch a pro showing how they take , for instance a reference photo, and what strategy they use to pick and choose elements to put in and leave out I believe I can train myself to do it too. I'd ideally like to engage a live tutor but there are none here, and the closet college with an art program is too far. I got a suggestion from someone for a watercolor teacher named Sian Dudley who has a video course that is inexpensive and may be fairly close to what I'm looking for. Thanks Virgil for the suggestions. Anything I can get to help me is good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverSwallow
You have already received some great advice so I will try add a little to it.
In my experience and from teaching, I have found that you can spend more time looking at tutorials, reading books,etc than study.

What you need to do is actually practice.

Hi SilverSwallow, thanks for the really good advice. I know I need to practice but I am a visual learner and I learn very quickly and in depth by watching complete examples. I have a number of dvd's that have examples to follow but they just scratch the surface of what I need, how to filter what I'm seeing. Practicing without knowing what to practice is not fruitful, at least for me. As I wrote above to Virgil I may have found one that was suggested to me.
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Old 06-25-2019, 09:00 AM
Lauresa Lauresa is offline
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a compositio

Hi Eric,

I think everyone struggles to simplify and edit. SilverSwallow’s advice is excellent. Doing the thumbnails forces you to leave things out because the thumbnails at 2”x3” or so are so tiny. You can do the thumbnails in three values, dark, midtone, and light. That will help you to simplify even more. Use a soft, medium, and hard lead pencil or use markers or watercolor pencils.

I also use an ap on the iPhone and iPad called NotanIzer. You can import a photo and view it as a notan (two values) or as three or four values. You can adjust the values to determine the value pattern. It helps me to find the big shapes in a scene.

Maybe another thing to read up on is “selective attention,”—how our brain sharpens what we are focused on and blurs everything else. It helps to remember this as you paint. Keep the center of interest of your painting sharp and more colorful and intentionally soften/blur and mute the colors in other areas of the painting. As we paint, our selective attention is on different areas of the painting and we tend to want to make each area we are working on sharp and detailed. I actively combat that urge continuously.

The techniques below can be useful in those “oops, I did it again” scenarios when, despite your best intentions you have included too much detail AGAIN. These techniques are useful to me as I paint alla prima landscapes in oil.

When I am struggling with a painting, at some point I start judiciously swiping at it with a rag. It might improve it, but if it doesn’t I can just wipe it all off and start over. Some of my better paintings I have started to wipe and continued. I often use a mask in my well ventilated studio and spray solvent and quickly and gesturally wipe areas I want to erase. Unique effects from the spray can become part of the painting. I keep the mask on for 10 minutes or so after spraying to give my ventilation system time to get the solvent out of the air. You might be more comfortable dipping the rag in solvent.

As a painter of atmospheric landscapes, I sometimes use what I call the “fog brush” to unify and mute colors at the end of the painting. I take the colors from several different areas of the painting, mix them, and judiciously soften edges or mute colors. It helps to create a harmonious painting. A more aggressive use of the fog brush can obliterate details as it creates harmony.

Best of luck,

Laura
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Old 06-25-2019, 02:06 PM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

when one says "it isn't possible" I'm often tempted to say "challenge accepted".

never having seen any of your work I can't speak to what's possible for You, but note - there are plenty of BUSY paintings out there, perhaps you should experiment with a full, busy, cluttered piece - perhaps that's your style ... perhaps not, but i wouldn't fully discount it as a possibility.

la
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Old 12-25-2019, 04:16 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

This is such good advice and am saving it

Quote:
Originally Posted by virgil carter
Well...this is a common problem for many early painters. Welcome to the group!

My suggestion: before starting to paint, figure out what story you want the painting to tell. What idea, emotion, feeling you want to share. Identify your point of interest, or your area interest, i.e., the "star" of the painting; the most important thing in the painting.

When you have identified the "star" of your painting, remember that everything else--everything--is secondary and has only one role: to support the star and direct the viewer's attention to that star.

Ruthlessly eliminate everything which is competitive with the star or which is not needed to direct attention to the star and support the viewer's focus on the star.

A final point: if you are doing landscapes, keep in mind there are up to three planes in a landscape--foreground, middle ground and background. Not every landscape has all three planes but many do. Whatever plane is the one where your "star" is located is the most important plane. The remaining planes are simply secondary and exist only to get the viewer's eye to the most important plane and the "star". Downplay the secondary planes and focus your attention on the important plane.

Said differently, don't throw a lot of detail into the foreground if the star lives in the middle ground or background.

Good luck with your painting!

Sling paint,
Virgil
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Old 01-03-2020, 02:56 PM
Causality Causality is offline
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

Composition doesn't float in a vacuum. It's important for a reason, and it is shaped and condition by a surrounding context of factors.

To practice it, even to analyze existing examples, or to watch someone demonstrate their process of creating a composition--none of these things will speed you on your path without an ability to analyze what you are experiencing. Analysis requires a vocabulary and awareness of the issues involved.

Once you have a knowledge of various ideas about and vocabulary of composition, then the action-oriented advice above will serve you amazingly well: analyze compositions, learn what your own likes and dislikes are, what serves your drive to paint and what interferes with it, what pulls you in and what turns you away.

What principles you discover and follow is a matter of your own values and intellectual style. But I can't help mentioning that at least some theories of composition are complete invention, and that independent thought, research, and analysis are rewarded with knowledge that isn't generally handed out on a platter.
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Old 01-03-2020, 08:37 PM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

The design of composition is an archaic subject these days as it is not generally taught by most art schools. It took me a couple of years of study on the Internet and from out of print books to start to come to an understanding of composition at it relates to painting. Then I found Ian Roberts’ book “Mastering Composition”.

Ian in his introduction, describes five picture planes of a painting, a framework in which to develop a painting. Basically: decide the format and size, consider the division of space, block in the main abstract shapes, refine these into subjects, and finally add the details. Great! Five steps. Big steps no doubt, but a framework I understood.

Perhaps this is a bit too mechanical for some people’s taste; almost a paint by number design. It probably doesn’t work for all genre of painting and it leaves out mood, tone, colour and many other elements that affect our painting process.

Does anyone have a framework/process whereby the develop their paintings?
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Old 01-04-2020, 05:55 PM
Causality Causality is offline
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

If you search this forum for titles with 'book' in them you'll come up with quite a list, including some books that approach the issue from a 'problem solving' angle which might suit the OP's requirements better.

I would add a surprising gem by Jose Parramon which is a very good summary of the issues in orbit around classical painting: "Composition in Painting and Drawing".

An old favorite of mine which is rather dense and to a degree informed by ideas pulled in from the realm of abstraction is the section on composition in Chard's "Landscape Illusion".
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Old 01-07-2020, 01:54 PM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

Quote:
Originally Posted by __Eric__
My brain wants to put everything it sees into the painting. It isn't possible. I've been told to "use my artists eye" to filter elements out and only paint what is essential. I have no intuition for this and it causes me to avoid anything but single element still lifes. I can take one thing out of a complex photo but pleine air is out of scope. I'd like to progress.

Is anyone aware of tutorials, videos, books or anything that can help with training my brain to filter out all but the essentials to compose a good scene? I know I just need practice but I don't know how to start. I've tried using random reference photos for practice but I always try to put everything in, I'm not sure how to filter. Youtube or online is fine but a dvd/video or book would be better for me. Any suggestions at all are appreciated and will be attempted.

Thanks.




Start from the extreme opposite. Draw only ONE big shape. Notice I said SHAPE, not object. Draw one Big FOREGROUND shape that encompasses everything in the foreground.


Do that for several images, then you advance to draw 2 shapes... ( that is easier to do with color to keep contrast high) just 2 coherent and in a single segment each shapes ( that means no disconnection between 2 parts of the same shape)


That type of exercise should help.


The other thing to learn is the concept of gesture, or the flow . Look for this concept in youtube as there are several videos about it (most are applied to human figure, but the concept applies everywhere)
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Old 01-20-2020, 07:23 AM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

Have to agree with La .It is all good reading and learning but don't take it as this is the way it is and you can do only that because this is what is taught ..instead get the facts about things and pick and choose come to your own conclusion and invent for what it is you want to get over.. sometimes being taught something can in fact put you back in term of progressing in art and this is oh so the more in the western world it is all around us we can not escape it , Egyptians did not even have a word for space they did the actual object how it was in real life to them compared to the western world with it's invented 3d perspective ,Drurer, and vanishing point etc etc so the object we see we become copying machines it's a given view of the object at a given moment ..and the totality of experience is lost the artist is no longer judge and organizer. Just take a step back from all you have learned and go against the grain sometimes and question is what you have done realy "wrong" maybe not so if you feel a true conviction for why you did it.
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Last edited by tidal : 01-20-2020 at 07:38 AM.
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Old 01-20-2020, 03:03 PM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

The suggestions can apply differently depending on your preferred style and preferred subject matter.
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Old 01-28-2020, 04:10 PM
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Re: Exercises or tutorials on choosing elements for a composition?

This subject is a bit of a minefield with answers that depend on a number of variables and your style and interests.

But try whatever you hear about or see and your brain will somehow coalesce it all into your art over time.

I think I use different types of composition in my paintings. sometimes its the perspective in a painting that the image is composed within, but hard to explain. Other times is more graphical, with objects at pleasing angles or key standard division, e.g the rule of thirds. Ill need to think about my own habits, you got me thinking

Something you may like to try is drawing people in public, even cars waiting at lights. When you are waiting for a train, or bus, or in a cafe.
The subject may move or be in motion. This lack of time makes you instantly decide whats important. you may only get a gesture of a persons form or just the key bit of interest that made you chose that person or vehicle in that instant.
And yes tiny sketches can work so you cant fiddle with details.

New artists often seem to jump in and paint before thinking about what they are painting and get fustrated when it doesnt work. I tend to sketch out several ideas sometimes, trying different compositions in wide narrow, square, rectangle formats etc and colour combinations. Then I may select one i think works best and do a better sketch to work out exact composition before doing the final piece. but thats just me.

I may even change the weather in landscapes to hide distractions or emphasise things.
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