5 Easy Steps for Learning Composition in Art and Photography
One question I'm repeatedly asked by artists and photographers is, "Where can I find reliable information on composition in art and photography?" While on the surface this might seem like a simple question, the reality is, it's incredibly difficult trying to find accurate material on design yet alone trying to piece it all together so it makes sense. With this thought in mind, I decided to create an easy five-step process for learning the art of composition that will help any artist or photographer proceed in the most logical and productive manner.
Step 1 Pick up a copy of Classical Drawing Atelier and Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides and read both chapters on composition. These two sections, Design: Nature and the Golden Ratio and Composition: Design Systems of the Masters, will provide the reader with the necessary historical background information on design. Additionally, both books introduce the artist to the basics of composition which include the golden section, root rectangles, and the 14 line armature of the rectangle as referenced in Charles Bouleau's book *The Painter's Secret Geometry.
Step 2 Download a free PDF copy of the book The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist by dynamicsymmetryart.com. This user's guide has a large volume of analytical notes as well as other downloads that will help reinforce the foundational material provided in Juliette Aristides books. This user's guide also has demo videos that will help clarify the information provided.
Step 3 Watch Myron Barnstone's drawing video lessons 7 & 10 on Dynamic Symmetry and the golden section. These two videos have an endless amount of information on Dynamic Symmetry and will help solidify the material mentioned above. You can find these two lessons at Barnstone on Demand.
Step 4 Read Henry Rankin Poore's book Pictorial Composition: An Introduction. Even though this book doesn't talk about Dynamic Symmetry or the golden section, it's a perfect companion for learning more about pictorial balance in design. Basically, this book is the icing on top of the cake.
Step 5 At this point, after reading all of the material above and watching the videos, you should be able to start analyzing master artists work. The process of decoding and deconstructing art will help improve your visual literacy skills and allow you to learn composition at a much faster rate. See the related article Priceless Advice: A Personal Email From Myron Barnstone.
*For the beginner student, I don't recommend reading Charles Bouleau's book "The Painter's Secret Geometry" until the other information that I've referenced above is fully absorbed and understood. Even though Bouleau's book is a great addition to learning more about composition in art, most artists and photographers that are just starting out will find it overwhelming and intimidating.