Simple Changes for Better Composition

I want to talk/write a little bit about composition and how it can help or hurt a work. There are so many things to consider when designing a work that it can often feel like 3 dimensional chess…..finished size, focus of interest and how to get the viewer to look where you want them to, the supporting players, color, edges, even the type of support you are painting on.

I was commissioned to paint some hawks for a collector who live near Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania and wanted an homage to that part of their world. I chose some images and did several thumbnail sketches to hone in on a design. Once I chose the design that I thought was best I drew the painting completely ignoring what I had chosen. And then I continued to paint, never once going back to look at my original design. Big mistake. A fixable one, but none-the-less, what a silly thing to do, right? After the work was completed I showed it to a friend as it felt so off. Wisely, she asked if I had done a thumbnail as the painting was weighted to one side of the canvas with no balance. Duh…..

hawk bad small

If you think how your eye is moving (or rather barely moving) around this painting you can feel yourself hanging out on the left side of this work. There is nothing helping you to move around the the scene. Even if you want to look at the hawk that’s eating his prey, too quickly your eye is pulled back to the left side and, for me, I barely notice the hawk but am focused on the mountain.

Here it is after repainting the background.

Hawk small

You can see that the design elements are much stronger now. Not only is it better balanced, but the sky is a nice foil for the standing hawk on the left side of the painting. The verticality of the hawk moves the eye up and down the canvas where the tails of both hawks are on an internal horizontal design line leading the eye across the canvas. The fence further supports movement to the right helping our eye to rest on the hawk that is eating. Then the vertical line of the eating hawk’s prey, beak, and head move us up to where the mountain will direct us back to the left to the standing hawk. The sky is a resting spot and the clouds mimic the horizontal line where the ground plain meets the mountain. Nothing was changed from the horizon line down. But change at the top 1/3 of the painting made a huge difference to the whole piece.

hawk bad very small  hawk very small

So some notes……Make thumbnails. Try different formats-square, rectangle. Design where your lights and darks will be to see what will be best to get your idea across. Using your thumbnails play with how the work is weighted. You can ask your friends which design they like better. If in doubt, paint a small study. And finally don’t be afraid to change your work if it doesn’t work.

 

 

Art is Even in Your Latte

Art is never ever cancelled in the home-schooling community. Home school teachers, whether they be parents or other types of teachers, know that the arts is not only valued, but seen as completely relevant and especially important part of a well educated person. As a teacher, painter and draftsperson,  who has taught art for the last 8 years and who also lives with an architect, I can tell you the importance of art instruction in one’s life. And I can show you by example how my own grown children benefited from exposure to the arts.

The creation of art in any form, whether it be 2 dimensional such as drawing, painting, collage, or 3 dimensional such as pottery, sculpture, or architecture, forces us to slow down. In a world that runs on nano-seconds, it’s hard to slow down and find the quiet where listening, experimentation, and creativity come from. It, slowing down to listen and create, is an important a skill as any other.

Art (and music as well) teaches us to not only look but to see. It gives us permission, in fact forces us, to see things from more than one view point. It allows for multiple mistakes and encourages multiple corrections.

Art is, 100%, in EVERYTHING we buy, touch, wear, sit on, travel in, and walk through. Art is in science and math. As an example look at the Fibonacci sequence, a conch or nautilus shell, and design concepts. Or Sacred Geometry. Or map-making. And why is a picture worth a thousand words? Because of the feelings evoked which are sometimes harder to express in words. Art works with the rhythm of music and the rhythm of words because as a designer we want to lead the viewer on a path. Sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, sometimes staccato.

Obviously I’m biased. But the next time you sit down with a latte and see a beautiful design laid into the foamed milk, remember that’s a form of art too.

latte art