Tip 8 Composition

Anthony O'Keefe Uncategorized 0 Comments

There have been loads of books written about composition that all aspects of visual arts from painting to interior design and films but I find it best to stick to some simple guidelines to help me produce the painting I want and is pleasing to the eye. I say guidelines as they are just that, not rules, and can be used or discarded as the situation demands.

Rule of 1/3s
Divide the vertical and horizontal planes with two equally spaced lines, where they intercept is the “Magic 1/3”. Use one of these points to place you main area of interest or focal point it works to produce a much more pleasing composition.

Use curves to direct the viewer to your focal point, with people the arms and torso will normally provide this for you but remember the background elements should also follow this guideline. If you look at John Constable’s Hay Wain you will see that all the curves of people animals, trees, clouds, branches, roofs, all point towards the vanishing point.

Focal Point
If you’re painting a subject decide what is the most important point of interest, put this in one of the magic 1/3s position and paint it with the most detail and clarity and vibrancy. As you move away from this point make the image less focused, less detail, less vibrant……… gradually. Remember this is only a guide and if this does not work for you, so be it.

Disappearing Off Canvas
When a curve or line touches the edge of your canvas it has the effect of drawing the eye out of the picture rather than into it. To counter this place a vertical line to intersect the troublesome line to bring the eye back into the picture, or fade the line as it approaches the edge.

Sock Puppet
I find if I paint a portrait with the subject touching the bottom of the canvas only it reminds me of a sock puppet that has just popped into the picture. I hate it and cannot get the image out of my mind. The way around the problem is to have the subject touch at least two sides or to fade the subject as it approaches the edge.

When planning your next painting think about these guidelines and you’ll end up with a better composition, but do not be a slave to them paint what you feel is right and it will be.

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