It is only one small aspect of the business of composing a painting - there are so many other aspects, all I can do perhaps is open your eyes to a few of them.
I'd like to talk, this week, about how the emphasis of a certain deliberate aspect of design can help to create a particular atmosphere.
Firstly, let's consider images which represent calm, almost static forms of design. So, let's first look at SYMMETRY.
An image with the main subject placed firmly in the centre is something that, as art students, we are encouraged to avoid. But a walk around any gallery of Master paintings will show that a centralized design was constantly used by the greatest of painters. And what about a portrait? It would be a bit daft to deliberately place a head off-centre just because of a suspicion that it might not be a good idea to "centralise" the subject! Above is a painting by Bellini, entitled Madonna of the Meadows. The mother and child form an important triangle - slap bang in the centre of the image, a strong, stable, iconic triangle, firmly rooted to the base of the image. I think it is so obvious, I am not going to draw lines around it to prove the point. There are other diagonal movements going on all over the image, but these are countered and stabilised by subtle vertical and horizontal accents throughout. Notice the horizontals in the landscape and sky, and the vertical elements of the buildings on the hillside, in the clothing of the Maddona, and in the trees. There are other echoes...even the gentle inclination of the distant trees echoes the tilt of her head.
We are taught these days that horizontals and verticals are calm and stable..and diagonals and angles provide variety, edginess and instability.....so all these angles should produce a sense of activity...yet because of the way this piece has been so carefully and SYMMETRICALLY designed, the atmosphere, as a result, is very calm and stable .
By way of contrast, let's look at the ASYMMETRY created by Degas in this lovely dancers image.