Monday, 31 March 2014

Composition pitfalls

Away again only with access to iPad so please forgive lack of images!

I recently did a critique of painting of a village scene.  There was a cottage on the left of the scene which dropped down behind a big verge, so the doorway was partly hidden and the roof very low. The result of drawing this accurately was that the cottage looked far too small with a strange low door.  This is a common result of being too I explained to the artist, sometimes what looks normal in three dimensions, simply does not translate onto the flat two dimensional paper or canvas surface.  We need to be careful of this kind of pitfall. I believe there is a name for this kind of visual anomaly but it escape know what I mean tho...the telegraph pole sticking out of the walkers head and other similar visual fun things we often get in photos! Degas said "even in front of nature one must compose".

Design conviction.  It does take time for every artist to begin to see "design possibilities" rather than just  " lovely sunset" or "colourful buildings". But it really is a vital part of your development and I encourage everyone to take their learning about this very, very seriously.  You need to ask yourself questions about how you have placed the shapes within the rectangle. Not just the story, not just the content. To help yourself, turn your picture upside down, this helps enormously.  Does it split instantly into two halves? Does the subject matter "float" in a sea of emptiness?   Is it a picture with too many disparate shapes which have no relationship with each other?  What could you adjust to give a more cohesive look?  Try your hardest to see the image as a set of shapes.  Squint a LOT.

Also ...Mechanical Patterns.  It is easy to line up things like trees ...and other elements... like soldiers, spaces between all equal and boring.  Remember, you are not a camera and can move things so that they look interesting and not mechanical.

Bad Flow.  They artist needs to ensure that the viewer is not just directed around the painting carefully but is also pointed, in some way, to a focal area or centre of interest.  Sounds obvious but when caught up In The flow of painting, often the "visual flow" is unconsidered.

Too Busy.  Less shapes means more clarity.    Look critically at your picture when it is upside down.  Is it a mass of loads of random small shapes?  Can you visually join any of those shapes to make one larger shape?  You may be able to bring tones closer together and soften edges in order to do this.

Weak foreground.   All too often, the foreground is neither considered as an important shape, or as an important part of the design at all, be cause it is not the main subject of the picture.  But it IS an important element, even if it is a patch of nothingness, a tabletop. a road or an area of water or a field.  It is still a shape.  A shape at the base of the picture.  Don't leave it as a weak, unconsidered shape because you cannot think quite how to handle it.

Same applies to the dreaded "background", often the subject of much heartache for the still life or portrait painter.  Instead of thinking "background", think"shape" ...the background areas are just as much shapes as any other shape within the rectangle.

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