Composing A Picture

Outdoor Watercolors - Composting A Picture

For our purposes, "composition" is the art of making a sketch or painting pleasing to the eye. When the elements of a painting are pleasantly arranged, the eye will be gently led to those features of the scene that have pleased you. The eye will not be offended, bored, or drawn away from the center of interest. The eye will participate in the pleasure you felt when you touched brush to paper.
Good composition can be learned! Many books have been written to teach the classical elements of composition. My own choice in this regard would be some of the wonderful teachers of the past, such as Ernest Watson or Ted Kautzky. But there are other good instructors who have written books on the subject. Look into it, and you will certainly learn much beyond the scope of this book. And with practice, what you learn from books will eventually become almost instinctive.
However, I offer a few hints on the subject:
Determine what is your "center of interest." As 1 discussed in the last section, make it bold and---well---interesting! Try not to place it dead center in the painting. Put it slightly to the right or left, and above or below the center. Don't ask me why this works best, but it does. Generations of artists have proven this to be so, and it is wise to learn from their experience.
Next, balance your composition. The eye becomes uncomfortable if all of the interest is on one side of the paper. These simple examples tell the tale better than words:


These examples, though similar to the above, are improvements because they are better balanced. And notice how the added elements keep your eye from roaming off the side of the paper.


Try to avoid perfect symmetry. In painting, symmetry is boring. Notice the difference between the drawing on the left, and the improved version on the right.


Use various devices to lead your eye to the center of interest. This can get complicated. But notice how a simple pathway, stream, dock, or other buildings, can lead the eye where you want it to be. Correct perspective always helps in this regard. Poor perspective can lead your eye right off the paper! Notice the devices that help lead to the center of interest in these examples.


There is far more to this interesting subject that is beyond the scope of this book, but these few hints should get you started. Read up on it. Practice it! Eventually interesting composition will become second nature to you.


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