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Rules of composition

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Let's get more into details for the rules of composition.

I prepared a path to follow

STEP 1 - IDEA

You have an idea! Sketch it down, work on it. Try different composition in the way that follows


STEP 2 - SHAPE OF PAINTING

Decide the dimension of the final work:

Square, rectangle, size.

You can use your figer shaped in 2 "L" and creating a frame to help you decide when looking at a subject. Or you can use a View Finder.

 


STEP 3 COMPOSITIONAL AREA DIVISION

You can divide the scene or area you work on with "intelligent" lines to which your subject more or less should adhere to.

Here I use photographs for reference but the same apply to any painting or drawing

Oh, I used the "Crop Guide Overlay" in the Develop panel inside Lightroom 3.0 to show you the hidden divisions inside a nice looking picture.I exagerated the thickness of the lines and colored them in red for the purpose of showing you those guide lines. In reality, Lightroom looks like that:

lightromm 3 with crop guide overlay fro compositional help

So let's start with the...

...Rule of thirds

rule of thirds

See how the lighthouse is about following the left red vertical line? And the horizon the top horizontal red line?

 

Golden ratio

Known since the ancient time is a proportion rule of beauty in nature and geometrical shapes.

golden ratio

here is a step by step illustration on how to find the golden mean on any rectangle:

making the golden ration step 1
STEP 1
making the golden ration step 2
STEP 2
making the golden ration step 3
STEP 3
making the golden ration step 4
STEP 4
making the golden ration step 5
STEP 5
making the golden ration step 6
STEP 6

 

 

 


 

and so we also made the...

...Diagonals

diagonals

There is now the...

...Golden Spiral (roughly highlighted)

golden spiral

..and the..

...triangle

triangle as a help for composition

 

 


STEP 4 - FOCAL POINT

That's what composition is all about!

What is the main center of interest?

Often the main center of interest, or focal point, is in one of the intersection of the "lines" shown above:

focal points in the rules of thirds

Here the focal point is the top left intersection with the top of the lighthouse roughly positioned on that point.

The focal point should be the spot with:

  • highest contrast
  • highest detail
  • highest color
  • largest shape
  • lightest value next to darkest value

 

now follow some tricks to have the eye of the viewer follow a path leading to the focal point:


STEP 5 - TRICKS LEADING TO THE FOCAL POINTS

  • directional lines
  • gradation changes
  • increasing detail
  • increasing contrast

Mark Mehaffey’s full-length video tutorial at Creative Catalyst.

The Creative Catalyst Production(CCP) is a great way to find lessons online and immediately start to learn composition, watercolor. painting, drawing...And you can also rent the videos!


STEP 6 - Then there are some other rules

  • Vary edges (e.g. soften or "blur" them)
  • No kissing (don't have elements touching themselves or to close to the edge)
  • off-setting the horizon
  • less is more (keep things simple!)
  • odd numbers (e.g. 3, 5 elements are best for a still-life; 2 are boring, 7 or more are distracting)
  • Keep light and shadows consistent
  • Have a dominant key, fo color, value, temperature

 

Reference: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Drawing, 2nd Edition

 

van gogh paintingFURTHER READING: would you like to ask yourself some important questions to cross check if your composition and painting are ok? Then read on here!

 

 

 

 

Richard McKinley webinar

You can read about Richards ideas for making a successful painting here.

Richard's McKinley encourage to plan your painting from the very beginning...choosing the size and shape of your painting. Read on!


Richard McKinley DVD
The DVD

Here is Richard McKinley's Book:

Pastel Pointers: Top 100 Secrets for Beautiful Paintings

 

 


Return from rules of composition back to the elements of art page

Return from rules of composition in art back to the homepage.

 

 

 

 

 

    
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