The artistic masterpieces of every age have consistent underlying principles that emerge regardless of stylistic differences. By studying these artistic principles and their applications, we can appreciate the unique qualities embodied in the masterpieces of the ages. This in turn can help us recognize historical innovations in drawing and painting, and suggest to us ways in which these innovations can be used in contemporary art.
New art movements based upon artistic reactions to prior traditions have been responsible for much of the innovation in the art world. However, in the cultural climate that exists today this pattern of receiving an artistic heritage and either building on it or reacting against it has been broken. Many contemporary artists acknowledge no relationship at all to the art of the past. This failure to acknowledge what is, in fact, our common art heritage is, in my opinion, a major weakness of much current art.
In our arts climate, historical education and art training are often considered antithetical to genius. Rising artists are frequently expected to tap their knowledge directly from the ether, disconnected from history and labor. However, when the instincts of the individual are elevated above education, the artist can become stuck in a perpetual adolescence where his passion outstrips his ability to perform. A far more powerful art form is created when artists seek to first master the craft of art and then use it to express their individuality. As the British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds said in 1767, “Rules are not the fetters of genius, they are the fetters of men with no genius.”
Only by rebuilding our knowledge base can art once again become the combination of brilliant technical achievement and unique self-expression that defined the great art of the past. I was first introduced to this concept when studying with Myron Barnstone at Barnstone Studios. I was astonished to find that art had a language and a continuity of ideas that flowed throughout art history. Throughout high school and art school, I was expected to create original work before ever learning the basic skills. After several frustrating years of trying to express myself without the proper tools, I decided to learn directly from artists. I found atelier training to be the most challenging and rewarding approach to education. This is why I choose to train my students in this method.
The atelier movement attempts to rebuild the links between masterpieces of the past and our artistic future. As such, it sets a different course than the one prescribed by the arts establishment of the modern era. By reinvigorating arts education, we can give the next generation of artists the tools that have been lost or discarded over the last one hundred and fifty years. This book was written with the aim of reintroducing basic or fundamental principles of art. The principles laid out in this book, when studied in both successful works of art and through exploratory exercises, will hone one’s powers of observation, cultivate awareness of visual subtleties, foster discipline of both eye and hand, and build the skill and technique required to create strong, successful artwork of any style or genre.
"James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley "Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people. My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos. I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher, Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio