Friday, July 11, 2008

Gimme Five

Intuitive Composition. Before you get to intuitive drawing, you may have to discover the rules of classic composition.

Mattise laid awake at night...

  1. Sketch in your center of focus first, then arrange the rest of your composition around it. Of course, you will usually have the center offset, as most good compositions follow the Golden Mean outline.
  2. Look at a thousand works by advanced artists and master's works. Learn how they have used the Golden Mean, and it will ingrain in you this not-so-secret formula of compositional success.
  3. Include the knowledge of the Fibonacci Spiral with your Golden Rectangle. I am a believer in taking the viewer's eye for a walk around my painting, and the spiral is the basic tool for this. Other tools include lines and patterns that suggest where the center of interest is. Another secret of mine is keeping the eye on the picture plane. More on that later.
  4. Be your own harshest critic. Before someone else is. What I mean is, learn to decide whether a composition of yours is better as is, or might be better re-arranged. Make the changes, or don't be afraid to discard the whole sketch.
  5. Brutally discard details that don't matter to the direction of your piece or your art. Mattise laid awake at night because someone complained, asking him why he hadn't used shadows and perspectives with his forms. By morning, he retorted to the air, "because they don't add anything to what I am saying!"

Not feeling intuitive? Go here for the Golden Rectangle PC cheater tool.
Need to cheat the Golden Spiral? Here you go.
Reference to Fibonacci.


Brian McGurgan said...

As is often the case, your tips on classic composition come at a great time, Casey. I was reading last night from "Like Breath on Glass", the catalogue published for an exhibit of "the art of painting softly" by Whistler, Innes, Twachtman, and others that has just opened at the Clark Institute in Massachusetts. I'm planning to visit the show in a few weeks and am "studying up" in advance. Being a fan of George Innes, I spent some time looking at one particular painting, "Home at Montclair" and studied the way the compositional elements Innes used led me through the painting. My eye was intially drawn to a large, off-center pine next to the house in the painting that I would bet is right at one of those sweet spots formed by intersecting golden ratio rectangles and their diagonals. I was then led in a broad, sweeping spiral (Fibonacci's, no doubt) through the painting until returning to a spot near where I had started, only then to notice a small figure near the house walking along a path toward the setting sun. I had somehow entirely overlooked this detail with my first broad scan of the painting. That feeling of having been "walked" intentionally through the painting by the artist to experience this discovery was very moving for me. Magical stuff, and a great set of tips as well - thanks!

Casey Klahn said...

I read about that exhibit - how smart of you to get the catalog beforehand, Brian. Sounds like a well curated exhibit, too.

Multiple intersecting golden rectangles! That conjures up all of those renaissance paintings with rectangles and triangles superimposed on them.

Actually, I am working on a big work with two rectangles and one Fib. Spiral. I frequently have troubles transferring a thumbnail, which looks like intuitive gold, onto a large sheet. If this method works out, I'll post about it.