Every artist, no matter the medium, faces a challenge of arranging the scene they are creating. Art fundamentals may be the most overlooked basic is composition. The artwork can have all the right values, colors, anatomy, but if the composition is ignored, the artwork will fall apart quickly.
Luckily beginners have a couple of guides they can use to get started and expand from there as they gain more experience. In this lesson, we will take look at what is composition and apply that knowledge in the exercise section.
Simply put, the composition is how visual elements are arranged or placed in an artwork. The composition isn't the main subject of the artwork, it's where things are placed and how they appear.
Composition aims to make the artwork eye-catching and guide a viewer's eye on the important parts of the artwork that include the information, the story, of the artwork.
Artworks with a calm and relaxing mood have a symmetrical composition with a balance on both sides of the image. Pieces with action and dynamic feeling, tend to have an asymmetrical composition with the weight on either side of the artwork.
Creating artwork is balancing the visual elements: lines, shapes, color, texture, space, and so on. A successful artwork will put the viewer at ease. The composition is more about designing than creating; how to make things pop up, what elements should be emphasized, what patterns to use, and more. Viewers will stay longer when the composition gives them something interesting to look at. Think of two images of vases. The one is a plain vase at the center of the image with a flower peeking out, while the other is placed on the right side with the flower leaning over the edge of the vase. Which one you think is more interesting to look at?
Read the cards below to learn about designing principles that can be used with composition.
Portraits often have the person at the center of the canvas and, as the name suggests, they are the center subject. This is a symmetrical way to create a calming and stable effect.
The subject of the artwork is placed off-center to create an asymmetrical composition. This makes it more interesting for the viewer as the eye will move more around the artwork.
Elements are repeated and create a symmetrical piece. Colors and shapes can individually create patterns but also together.
Rule of thirds is one of the most popular ways to create a composition. It's simple to create by dividing the image into thirds on vertical and horizontal lines. The points in which the lines intersect are the most interesting areas to have the focal points.
Check out the video below to learn more about composition.
Let's study some paintings from the past. The gallery carousel below has ten artworks from different artists from different periods of time. Each of these artworks uses different ways to build their composition. What parts draw your attention first and where does your gaze move thereafter? Do the pieces have colors to make some parts separate from the rest of the image or are the shapes the thing that catch your eye first?
As you may have noticed, there's not always a specific way to use composition, but it's still there. Some artists may mix different composition principles, colors, patterns, and movements, for example. The previously introduced tricks for composition are only a starting point, as there are loads of other ways to present the subjects. Also, composition is something that is learned through experimenting and studying other's artwork. Now answer some questions about the artworks you just studied.
As it was said at the beginning of the lesson, the composition is often overlooked, but an essential building block for the artwork. Without it, the artwork can crumble and not wake any interest in the viewer.
Creating composition is something that is learned and achieved through studying others and experimenting with your own creations.
Something that many artists may disregard is anatomy. Drawing accurate humans requires basic knowledge on the topic, so we should also spend a while getting to know the basics. Next up, anatomy!