Composition in painting and drawing


hi everybody Eric here we’re in Seville Spain probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we’re in parque de maria luisa it’s a beautiful park the weather’s just great today and today’s subject is composition [Music] composition is the placement of the shapes in the two-dimensional picture plane I believe composition is the most important thing in the entire process of painting or drawing now a lot of artists seem to set up at their easel and they start painting and drawing and it doesn’t matter what format they’re using everything just comes out perfectly but for some of us it’s not that easy we start drawing we work on an area for an hour hour and a half we stand back it’s not where we want it or it’s crooked or it’s just compressed and the proportions are wrong a lot of problems come through poor planning during the composition now a lot of books especially art history textbooks go on and on about Egyptian pyramids and Greek temples and Nautilus shells and rules of thirds and rules of fifths and the golden rule and all of those things well we’re not going to think about any of those things we’re going to just keep it simple and simply concern ourselves with drawing what we see and placing the objects where we want them in our picture ok so rather than using a scheme or a plan we tend to use our instincts so you look at your view you frame it and you decide where you want the objects to go the important thing is that you control the composition and the composition doesn’t control you that things don’t grow they don’t go off the top or on the side everything needs to be placed where you want it placed in your picture okay we’re going to talk a little bit about perception now everything we see in the world is being covered by light sunlight in this case and that sunlight touches each object and bounces off an infinite number of directions well some of those light rays bounce off the object and come directly to our eye now when we see reality we perceive our surroundings in what we call a vision color that’s the limit of our vision and it disappears with our peripheral vision and it creates an imaginary cone okay let’s see the world with the vision cone and now as artists what a painter does is they intersect that cone with an imaginary picture plane that’s a flat two-dimensional slice of the cone and within that cone to compose a picture we create a window that window is what we’re going to paint or draw and let’s call it the image window okay we’re talking about the window in our vision cone now when we decide how we want to compose our picture how we want to frame our picture we choose a format and I believe each view lends itself to a certain format some views might be more horizontal and very wide and narrow other views might be almost square so that’s very important step in the composition so I’ve got this tool here I didn’t invent it but it’s very handy it’s a viewfinder the little window and I’ve divided mine into half it’s got four quadrants and I happen to have three different sizes one is more square the other is a little more rectangular and the other is more rectangular still now these three formats correspond to standard sizes of stretcher bars that you can buy at the art supply store and so you go and you get this handy little cheat this one’s in Spanish and it’s in centimeters but in America they’re in inches basically there’s three formats of standard shapes here one is called the figure that’s the square s droite okay and the other is the landscape it’s very rectangular and the third one is called marina seascape and it’s the most rectangular but of course you don’t have to use these for seascapes or landscapes you can use them for whatever you want they’re just handy sizes and handy shapes now there’s two ways of thinking of these shapes horizontal or vertical so anytime you go out and compose your picture you’re going to think do you want a horizontal picture and a vertical feature and do you want a narrow picture or a wider picture of course there’s other shapes which are not standard panoramic shapes or square shapes but for now we’re going to keep it simple we’re going to stay with these three standard shapes so some of my students are using these view finders and they’re sitting there an hour and a half looking and drawing but it’s not necessary we only use the viewfinder for the first few minutes you decide what format and then you just look and observed where the big shapes are the most important change and you indicate those shapes on your drawing you don’t draw everything you see you just draw a shape where that object goes and that’s all once you’ve sketched in very very briefly what you want in the composition you could put this thing away and start painting and observing okay so we’re gonna take a stroll and see what we can find [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] so the first thing we need to think about is exactly where do we want our subject here the subject is quite clear it’s this statute okay now where is the top on that catchy maybe about there where are the feet where is it now these lines very important are not cast in stone they’re flexible you’re searching finding the forms if you don’t like them we have that what’s called an eraser it’s not a crime to use it eraser and you keep searching until you’re satisfied with the placement of the objects before you actually draw the objects themselves there’s very important points such as the top and bottom of objects and the sides [Music] and it’s not a detailed finished drawing at all we’re not really drawing the objects we’re just drawing where we think they go you can draw them next but in the composition simple geometric shapes or place where you want them now I find an object which tends to be the subject in this case it’s the statue and I try to get the proportions more or less correct on that subject and then I can use that to establish scale [Music] [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Music] so you can see we don’t really draw the objects we just draw where they go [Music] later in the painting itself we draw all the details and follow the forms but first of all just place the objects where they go okay there’s the painting of the statue in parque de maria luisa that’s the finished painting that’s the finished painting that’s the finished and here I’ve got a compositional sketch for a different part of Seville the alameda of hercules and here’s the finished drawing all made of hercules sevilla and here’s another example this is the hardiness de Moreno it’s near the park in Seville civil civil some of the first death to make me a painting it’s finding a subject second step decide on the format and frame your image then the third step is what we talked about today laying out the composition keep it really simple just a few lines a few forms don’t get in to the drawing or color and then if you get the composition right it’s all downhill so I hope this has been helpful for you and I hope you’ve enjoyed it like this video please give it a thumbs up and subscribe thanks [Music]

4 thoughts on “Composition in painting and drawing

  1. What a good video Eric! You have to explain about light! For me, the best thing in your paintings is light. I am from Seville and when I see them I know if they were painted in summer, or winter, or morning, or afternoon. I think that is just surprising! And I guess it needs a very deep knowledge of the place too!

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