Week 7: Composition

In this lesson we started learning about the rules of composition, and how artists use them to best capture the attention of an audience.

We were sent out of class to take pictures around the college campus, producing an example for each rule as a task.

RULE OF SIMPLIFICATION:

Also known as ‘Arkham’s Razer’; this is rule of not overwhelming your viewer. The idea is to keep things simple with a small amount of focal point. Too much information and detail in the piece can cause eye fatigue.

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This piece demonstrates this by only showing a single leaf on the branch, when we would be used to seeing multiple leaves. The less leaves shown, the less of an eye strain it is to us, thus making this the rule of simplicity.

Some good examples of this being used in traditional paintings can be seen here:

San Giorgio Maggiore – Monet, 1908 here.

The Mill – Rembrandt, 1645-48 here.

RULE OF ODDS:

This is the rule that states that the number of items or key elements of the painting/photo should be odd. This is because our brains prefer seeing things as equal as it gives us closure, if there is an odd amount of elements, it keeps us visually interested.

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This piece demonstrates that as it only showcases a single magpie, as opposed to an equal amount, making it the rule of odds.

Some good examples of this being used in traditional paintings can be seen here:

Madonna del Prato – Raphael, 1605 here.

Still life with Lemons – Van Gogh, 1887 here.

Sunrise – Monet, 1872 here.

 

RULE OF THIRDS:

Rule of thirds is the act of dividing a page or canvas into a 3×3 grid to find the most interesting spaces. Being drawn plain in the center is too plain, as its equal it gives us too much closure, much like how the rule of odds works. Placing the main focus of your piece in the corners of the middle square make it much more interesting visually.

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Our example demonstrates this as the main focus of our piece is the sign on the window, and fits into one of the more interesting points in the rule of thirds.

Some good examples of this being used in traditional paintings can be seen here:

The Fighting Temeraire – William Turner, 1839 here.

 

RULE OF BALANCE:

This is the rule about focusing on overall balance, i.e. keeping the picture harmonious. This is so that we don’t throw the viewer’s eyes off balance. There are many ways to make the piece balanced, for example:

  • Symmetry – Same on both sides, clearly creating a balance.
  • Scales – Think of tonal weights like weights on a scale, the canvas being the scales. If one side feels heavier it risks being unbalanced.
  • Position – Slight changes in scale and elevation can help restore balance.
  • Shapes – Quadrangular shapes are heavier than round ones, placing a round shape can create balance.

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This picture demonstrates the rule of balance through the scale of the two main focus points and their elevation. As the people depicted in the photo are further away from the camera than the green house, them being being higher up on the canvas and having less detail creates balance with the overall composition.

Some good examples of this being used in traditional paintings can be seen here:

The Last Supper – Da Vinci, 1495-98 here.

The Birth of Venus – Botticelli, 1484, 86 here.

Drawing Hands – M.C Escher, 1948 here.

 

RULE OF SPACE:

This rule is about creating a sense of space in the piece that the viewer can move through.Wherever action is depicted there has to be space for it, so this rule is basically just to provide space for actions that are depicted.

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This shot captures this as the person shown is running ahead, with plenty of space in front of them, creating a sense of space in the composition.

Some good examples of this being used in traditional paintings can be seen here:

Dutch boats in a Gale – William Turner, 1801 here.

Battle Scene – Wouwerman, 1645-46 here.

Annunciation – Da Vinci, 1475-80 here.

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