Focussing on composition in painting

Composition is way elements within the frame are arranged. what makes an effective composition is very subjective. However a number of principles of composition have been used in paintings through the ages.

In this painting by Rembrandt the figures have been arranged in a particular way so the heads follow an imaginary line. The eye follows those areas of higher interest in a sweeping moon through the composition.

Colour can be used to create interesting compositions. Johnathan Yeo’s portrait of Tony Blair shows how a single colored element can balance with a larger more neutral tone against a complementary coloured background.

Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project - edited.jpg

The golden Section has been mentioned here it’s a ratio derived from numbers in the fibonacci sequence creating a pleasing proportion when used in rectangles.

Task 1

You will need coloured/painted paper scissors, glue

create an abstract design that uses the golden section/ratio. You may want to use rectangular elements cut out of one colored.painted card and place them on a back ground. Try varying the size of the elements that you use.

In Dali’s painting, Persistence of memory, there is a good use of the principle of thirds. The canvas can be divided into thirds horizontally and vertically and the main compositional elements align to this lines quite closely.

The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci - High Resolution 32x16.jpg

Symmetry is another composition technique, here the elements are arranged in a horizontal symmetry with the figure of Jesus in the middle as the focus of the composition.

Task 2

You will need Pencils, paper two identical objects

Take two identical objects. Create a symmetrical still life trying to get as symmetrical as possible. Considder how you will draw the two elements to make them symmetrical, you may find construction lines will help. Avoid tracing if you can, and try to position the items in the page in a balanced way.

Task 3

You will need Pencils, newspapers, magazines

Try to find newspaper or magazine photos and identify what composition conventions they have used. Whether it be rule of thirds, colour balance, golden section for example. Make notes of the methods that you identify. If you can try drawing the construction lines on over the images themselves.