How to get composition in paintings Part 4- Structure

How to get composition in paintings Part 4- Structure

In this part I will talk about how to layout a painting, dos and donts.

I use photoshop elements to crop my source photos to get a feel of what I want the painting to look like. If I'm out in the field painting in plein air, I will often take a photo and crop that to get an idea of where I want the edges of the painting to be and how "zoomed in" I want it to be. It's very easy to feel bogged down by the complexity of a scene when you are outside, so taking a photo and cropping it helps you to see what you want to say with the image

Another way of doing this is to carry a small rectangle of card about 100mm by 150mm with another rectangle cut out of it to make a frame that you can hold up and look around through to get an idea of the bits that you want to keep or leave out.

Ordinarily you dont want to look for symmetry in a painting, if painting a house for example, try to set the house to the side about a third of the way from either side of the image and have something else in the image, the view, or street or person etc. With nothing at all the image can feel unbalanced.

In this painting the boat with the man in the orange overalls takes up about a third of the image. this would normally be what the eye would notice initially, then the gaze would move across the painting towards the left and notice the cluster of boats on the other side.

You can occasionally break this rule as in the following painting, the join between the sides of the painting is in the centre:

The reason why this works in this image is that the small boat balances the larger ship, it is a more vibrant colour and holds its own in the painting. The subtleties of the larger ship up above are noticed after the small boat.

You shouldnt be scared of having sections of nothing for the eye to rest on, the lack of something in one place can make the contrasting busyness of another area more interesting and stand out more.

Be very careful not to have detail in every part of the painting as this will make it disturbing to look at, the eye will not be able to fix on any one part.

Having an area like a field with nothing in it can direct the gaze up.

The other thing that can make a painting pleasing to the eye is looking across a dark area into the light.

Learn to sketch basic people dog and cow shapes so that you can add them into your painting to give it a feeling of place and time.

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