Peter Paul Rubens, “Venus, Cupid, Bacchus, and Ceres,” designed in a root 2 Dynamic Symmetry rectangle.
When you're visiting an art gallery and a painting grabs your attention from across the room, have you ever asked yourself why? Is it the color arrangement, the subject matter, or the brush strokes? How about the medium used? Is it because the artist used watercolor or oils? While all of these artistic qualities can contribute to the success of a masterful work of art, more than likely, it was none of the above. It was probably the composition.
All art forms require composition. Think of a musician like Mozart. He is conforming to a particular arrangement of notes so that his music is pleasing to our ears. A skillful writer will learn how to structure their sentences so the reader can move fluidly through the chapters in their book. An artist that draws, paints, or photographs will require an effective arrangement of subject, shape, color, and value to make their art more powerful, more compelling, and more expressive. A well-designed work of art will achieve this goal.
Henry Rankin Poore once said, "Composition is the mortar of the wall, as drawing and color are its rocks of defense. Without it, the stones are of little value and are but separate integrals having no unity." Undeniably, composition is the glue that binds all of the various elements together in a frame. A haphazard composition, solely created using one's intuition, won't be as effective as a carefully planned design. A successful work of art will draw the viewer in, let them wander for a period of time, and allow them to exit gracefully. Simply put, composition is the foundation of all art.
Elements of Composition (from the book Pictorial Composition)
Composition is the orderly and harmonious grouping and arranging of lines and masses so that they will present a pleasing relation one to another. Unless the various parts of a design or picture are so arranged, they are simply isolated parts and have nothing of interest or value. For instance, if six matches or toothpicks are allowed to fall upon a sheet of paper, the effect, shown in Fig. 1 (a), will not be orderly and harmonious and therefore no pleasing arrangement will be formed. But if the sticks are purposely arranged as in (b), a hexagon will be formed. Placing one end of each stick against one end of all the others and spreading the bodies of the sticks out fanwise, as in (c), produces a sunburst. Placing them as in (d) forms a six-pointed star. Still, other orderly and harmonious arrangements could be made with the six matches, all illustrating composition.
Composition, however, also depends on the relative sizes and shapes of the outlined spaces; the relative tone values, sizes, and shapes of the masses of black, gray, and white; and the relative color values, as well as their light and dark values, and the sizes and shapes of the masses of colors.
The chief elements of composition are unity, balance, rhythm, harmony, and concentration of interest. Unity is the holding together of the parts. Balance is the placing of each part in its proper position so that no part will be unduly emphasized. Rhythm is the constant relation and orderly connect of parts. Harmony is the consistent arrangement of parts that have something in common, such as size, etc.
In the composition of pictures, however, the parts must also be so arranged as to keep the observer’s interest concentrated on the proper object or figure. Unless this is done, the picture will not convey the message or tell the story in the most graphic manner. Click here to learn more.