Thursday, September 29, 2011

Composition Is Fundamental (part 2)

What Are The Elements Of Good Composition?

Like ingredients in a good recipe, if you want to create beautiful art you need to start with knowing your  elements and how they combine to make the best "taste". In art, the ingredients of your composition are:
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Value (light & dark)
  • Color
  • Texture
How do these elements combine in your artwork to create the most attractive composition? Do the elements emphasize the focal point? Do they create movement within the
artwork, or combine to express an overall emotion or message?

Understanding The Principles Of Composition

 Following certain principles can help you put the elements together in a way that creates a pleasing composition. Not all the principles have to be applied in every artwork, but these are like guidelines to consider when thinking about your composition and what message or feeling you are trying to express.

Unity or Harmony - Sometimes this word is misunderstood. It does not mean that everything has to be the same or similar,  it simply means that everything has to work together to accomplish the goal. When someone looks at the artwork, if there is no sense of unity the piece will not hold their interest because it will fail to evoke "feeling", or it will not be pleasing.

Proportion - The size & shape of objects & effects, in relation to each other & the whole piece, is what proportion is about. Do the proportions create depth? Do they make sense, or are they emphasizing the focal point, expressing the message and supporting the unity of the piece? Using the Golden Mean, the Rule of Thirds, and perspective are three ways of achieving proportion.

Balance - This refers to the shape & mass of the elements in relation to each other. Large & dark shapes are considered heavier than small & lighter shapes. Do the objects in the artwork weight the piece in an unbalanced or unpleasing way? Balance can be achieved through symmetrical or asymmetrical placement of objects or through using color, light, dark, texture, movement & repetition in a way that creates balance through out the work.

Variety - Variety within the elements can be very subtle to almost chaotic, depending on the subject matter and the intention of your piece. For example, you could have a painting of only rocks, but there could be a great deal of variety within the sizes, shapes, value, and color scheme. On the other hand, you could have a painting of a wide variety of objects in a still life, but harmony is created through placement, color, value, etc. Ideally there should be enough variety to keep the observer interested, but not so much that the viewer becomes disturbed or feels the work is unpleasant to look at.

Contrast - Light & dark values create shape and give objects definition and depth. If there is not enough contrast in a work of art it can look flat, lacking depth or monotonous. Line, shape, color, and texture can also be combined in ways that create contrast.

Movement - When your eyes are naturally stimulated to move through out a piece of art it is because the elements are combined in a way that creates movement. Your mind may subconsciously follow lines, repeating shapes or colors,  or the nuances of relationships in the work that drive the viewer to find and understand your focal point.

Repetiton & Rhythm - Repetition creates rhythm and rhythm creates movement, just as the repetition of notes in music creates harmony and a melody that carry us through a piece of music. Repetition needs variety, or a slight variation in the elements or objects that are being repeated. It's through the variation of repeating elements that a particular rhythm is created. Repetition can also be thought of as pattern, and a pattern can cause the eye to move through out the piece.

These are a few basics to keep in mind when composing your work. Ask yourself questions about your subject matter. What attracts me to this? What do I want the focus of attention to be? What is the emotional experience of the work and how will I express that? Think of the elements of composition as your tools for expression, and the principles as methods for using those tools.

For a more in depth study of composition you may want to attend some of my classes or workshops.  

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