Monday, August 31, 2009
Composing a New Work
For the last few days I have been in my studio drawing. Working on both new compositions and improving the compositions of drawings I have done previously. Per Wiki: The term composition means 'putting together,' and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, depending on the context.
I like the term flow. The painting should take the eye of the viewer through the images on the canvas or paper. A good composition flows and draws the eye into a journey. A bad composition is static. It can be the reason you sometimes look at a painting and feel stuck or irritated. But you don't want to make your composition so rude that the viewer feels manipulated either.
Jan Vermeer was one of the masters of subtle composition. Line and light were his tools to draw the eye to the focus of the painting which was never in the center of the work. There is the rule of thirds and the rule of odds, perspective and view point to consider as well as source of light. And when translated from drawing to paper - color.
Some of this is almost second nature once you have learned it. And learning can be quite complex. There is unconscious learning from just having viewed a vast number of works of art and analysized why some pleases you and why some does not. And then there are fine art classes. And books. We must not forget books.
But you can also learn a lot from your own drawings. I never throw a sketch or drawing away. Or for that matter a tracing of the drawing for transfer to the canvas. I find that in working from the sketch to the canvas my mind will make subtle changes often that alter the finished work for the better.
The sketch in conte on the right is a new one from a photograph. It is the second sketch of the same subject. The photograph as it appeared in the magazine was rectangular on the horizontal. I thought it was flat. Editors in magazines love to crop and not always for the bettering of the image but to allow space for copy. I wanted it square and drew it first to be in a 12 x 12 canvas but it felt cramped. So I drew it again. Now I was far enough from the original image it began to have a flow of its own.
The drawing on the left is a subject I have done twice before. I like the theme but don't think I totally have what I want from it yet. This time it will go on a longer canvas - 28 x 18. I think that will allow more room for a more complex flow of the eye. The same sketch cannot just be applied to a taller canvas. Elements must be moved - rearranged.
Sometimes you get lucky and the very first composition is the right one. But often you have to tweak and tweak again until you have reached sympatico. That is what erasers and tracing paper are all about.