How To Nail Composition with Bill Perkins


Hi, my name is Bill Perkins and this session we’re gonna talk about composition. (writing) A lot of people ask about composition as in a general sense and then how we can get more specific about the ideas of composition. You know, do we just instinctually understand composition, is it kind of a nonverbal kind of a thing, is it something that we either feel or we don’t feel, where can I find a good book on composition? Let’s see there is all different sides of composition. What kind of a rules are there to composition, are there any rules to composition? We’re gonna go over a number of these things in this session and first I wanna just kind of break down the idea of composition. Now if you’re writing something you might say your composition is your statement. Okay so if you’re making – well let’s start with that. It’s your statement. (writing) So your composition might be your statement. Now if we’re talking about an image and making an image, that’s going to be your what – it’s your visual statement. (writing) Okay. So this is gonna be your visual statement, how you wanna put down your visual statement. Well if you wanna say something with your image and you have to have an image meaning and you have to have something you want to express, you can come up with an idea of what you wanna express but how do you put that down? That’s the bigger picture about composition. It’s less about rules and it’s more about visual literacy. How do we become more literate with our visual components, the things that we use to make up an image, how do we become more literate with those components. You know it’s interesting money doesn’t give anybody taste and power doesn’t make people wise but being an artist doesn’t mean you have visual literacy, it doesn’t mean you have complete control of that. What it means is, you’re working with visual mediums. It doesn’t mean you’re expressing yourself clearly. What we’re gonna do is look at clearer expression using composition to express yourself more clearly, make your statement, your visual statement, more clear to the audience. So if you want to get a mood across, if you want to make some kind of a statement about the subject you’re painting, if you have something to say about it then you wanna have the means to put that down. There’s a lot of painters all through history wanted it to put themselves into their paintings. And the way they did it was through their composition, sometimes through symbols, sometimes through physically painting themself into the portraits, but really setting up your visual statement really requires you have some understanding of visual literacy or you have some amount of visual literacy. So your visual statement requires that you have some sense of visual literacy. (writing) Okay. Because they depend on one another. Okay. Now sometimes people ask about what about rules about composition? I hear rules of this or the rule of thirds. Different kinds of rules that you might have heard and so on through your studying with people. And normally what I find is most of the rules are really ideas or guidelines. Golden sections really having – were really having to do with the idea of a classic beauty and through time our sense of beauty, our idea of beauty, time, and culture and stuff, across cultures, we have a different sense of what beauty is. So, you know, those are things that might be kind of geared towards either one particular style or one particular culture or so on. But we wanna look at how our art communicate across cultures, across boundaries. Like music. Music and art both can bridge different cultures, different languages. These two languages, a language of art, a language of movement, both can transcend that written language. So we need to know a little bit more about the language in order to compose images in the way we want to communicate clearly. So if your goal is to communicate clearly, we have to go back to the beginning and look at where we – where we learned these things and how we find out about these things and what makes sense to us. So I’m gonna start with dipping into visual literacy, really looking at our beginnings. Where we begin to think or do things visually. So the first thing that happens after you’re born, going way back to when you’re born. The first thing that happens is you learn to recognize a face. That’s the first thing you’re gonna recognize. Or first thing you’re gonna learn to visually connect with is a face. Next, you’re going to connect that with your mother’s face. Okay. And then you’re gonna recognize friendly faces and unfriendly faces. And so it grows. And we start to add to our vocabulary. This is our visual vocabulary that we’re building on since the moment we’re born, okay. We’re perceiving the outside world and we’re taking in what we can. We’re also filtering a lot. We filter more than we take in probably because we can see everything, we do see everything, and we actually bias that information by our own feelings, opinions, before it even hits our brain. It’s not a situation where we see everything and then our brain sorts it out. Our eyeballs filter things out before it even hits our brain. So that data is biased before it gets to our brain. And when we get into a situation where we talk about color we’ll get deeper and deeper into that. But really our ideas and stuff coming from what we see, how we assess the world around us is already biased by what we’ve built on since we were born and what we’ve gone through all our lives and so on. So we are different creatures, different ideas, we have different feelings about things, things mean different things to all of us but what we wanna do is get back to the beginning and really break that down. So in the beginning what we might do is when we begin our learning, even in school before we learn our written language, we have to become aware of two things. One, we have to understand patterns in order that we can recognize letters. So we might see something that looks like this. (drawing) Okay. So we solved this problem for the question mark. Circle, circle, triangle, circle, circle, what? And if we see another pattern. it’s more obvious to us what this is. So patterns play a role in observing visual patterns. Observing visual patterns is the first step that we take in writing or understanding letters but it’s also the first step we take in our visual understanding of things. We look for patterns, we see patterns. Okay. The other thing that we do in kindergarten, the other thing we do is we look at lesser than and great than. A value system. Okay. A system that determines value. One thing is more important than the other. Okay. So these are the first two things, is understanding and recognizing patterns, and then understanding that things have value. Those are the first two things that we learn before we can read and write and do mathematics. But these are fundamental, foundation components to our visual literacy. The idea of understanding or looking for patterns is primary and secondary a value system. We need to have a value system to determine what makes something a little bit more important than something else in our image. Okay. So these are real foundation elements to creating composition. Next we’re gonna look at just the idea of figure and ground relationship. And we talk about a figure and ground, relationship if I was going to do a drawing on this piece of paper here, okay, I could draw a circle on this piece of paper. Okay. So I draw a circle or a figure on this ground, this will be an open composition because I don’t define where my boundaries are. Even though my boundaries are basically the edge of the paper, I haven’t defined where those are. And this circle seemed to float within that area and it would be more like a vignette or an open composition. Now if I’m gonna make this a closed composition I give it a boundary. Okay. Now I gave that circle a boundary. I put that circle within that framework or within that square. I put it directly in the middle of the square and now I have a figure and a ground. Now this becomes part of my image language. This square becomes the boundary for my figure. So now I have figure, ground. A circle on that square becomes the figure ground. Now the whole thing you could say is an open composition, you know, in this piece of paper. If I drew a line around the whole paper here than this whole unit would become the figure to the ground. But right now I’m just gonna start with this. Kazimir Malevich in 1913 came up with a design or a plan where he took a circle and made it off center (drawing) in a square and then he rotated it and found that what happened was we get a different impression of what that circle is doing in space in that figure in ground. Now once you establish a figure in ground – (drawing) once you establish a figure ground relationship, you create a context. In order to create a composition you have to provide context. It’s not about rendering the things, it’s not about how you put the detail on somebody’s hair or ear or nose or whatever, it’s not the leaves on the trees or it’s not the shape of something lying on the ground. It has to do with a variety of components. But your figure ground relationship starting with this is the basic context. Okay. Once you create a context then you relate things around and expand on that. It’s like having your first initial idea. So once you create your idea then you can elaborate on that and make that a rich statement. So I have established a circle within the ground, a figure ground relationship building a context. So that’s my context. Now if I’m going to change or say something about this figure ground, this figure ground is static. You see. It’s directly in the middle. Okay. This situation is static. This figure ground element is a static composition. Now if I say I wanna use a circle and square but I wanna make the circle feel light, okay. I might put the circle up here. If I want it to feel heavy I might put it there. If I wanna make it feel far away (drawing) I might put it up there. If I wanna make it feel close I might put it there. (drawing) If I wanna make it look like it’s falling, I might put it there (drawing) If I wanna make it look like it’s moving I might put it there. And there’s a reason for all of these and it has to do with the figure ground relationship. But this is what I’m talking about about building your context. Once you have the idea that it’s gonna be this figure in this ground, now what are you gonna say about it? Are you gonna make it light? Are you gonna make it heavy, are you gonna make it far, are you gonna make it near, is it falling or is it moving? The space around this circle, the native space around that circle is giving us some information. And its proximity to the boundaries is also giving us some information. For instance, if it’s light it’s gonna feel like it’s rising. It’s going up. Okay. So we associate the top of the frame with up and far away. We associate the lower part of the frame with near or low. So it’s up and far away or close and low. And that’s how we relate to those. So this would be moving up because it’s going up this way. This would be coming down and be more heavy. Something small in the upper portion is far away. Something in the lower portion down here and large would help feel like it’s closer to you. Something falling at the center of your circle might be completely out of the square, so it feels like you’re getting this cropped kind of a situation. This situation here where you feeling movement, you feeling movement that there’s a force pushing this this way, that’s the result of your eye moving through this space. And where you have greater negative space in here your eye moves a little more slowly. Now when your eye has to come through here it speeds up. And that difference in speed from one side to the other of that circle creates a tension. And that visual tension is extremely important in visual literacy, in how you communicate with your imagery. That tension makes it pull to one side. It gives you the sensation of pulling to one side. So that’s what we’re seeing in here, we’re seeing this force that’s created by having greater distance here and less distance over here. So what is it that we think of when we think of any rules for composition? Are there any types of methods of doing one thing or not doing something, does this visual language have rules, and that’s what we have to look into. Is this a language, if it is a language what type of language, what’s the nature of this language and how does it work. And I’m pretty convinced that there’s so much about the range and the type of language that it is, it makes our written language difficult to explain our visual language. And I think that can be easiest summed up in the fact that why aren’t there more great books on composition. And to answer that I think two things. One, I do realize there’s a lot of people that know a lot about composition and have a good point of view and a good handle on how to increase your ability to compose images that convey your ideas more clearly. That’s true. I’ve met many artists that have a really good handle on composition they’ve acquired that either through their intuition or their understanding of the basics and those foundation skills so well that they’re just so ingrained with those and it really doesn’t matter if you come to acquire information about image making and building whether you do intuitively or whether you do it through instruction. What you need in the end is the combination of both because you need to put those things together to really excel to the next level. You’re only gonna go so far with just your intuition or just your feelings. And if you just go with your textbook information, you’re not gonna be as expressive as you possibly could be. So you really need to work both. So we need to look at the nature of the language. and understand that. And I believe there’s on the other hand there’s not as many books out there on composition for this other reason. That is it’s too hard to write about. It’s not a linear kind of a thing. There are no rules to composition. And so most of the times the thing that I see as put down as rules are dos and don’ts with visual ideas. Things that are rules for some people, some artists, do these things and they work for them and some artists are instructed to follow these rules. Well we’ve all heard the adage that, you know, when you become an artist you have to break some rules. Well I’m gonna propose we turn that upside down. What we do as artists, we don’t follow some of those rules and then outgrow them. That’s usually what happens. Most of the rules that we learn, and I’ve done the same. When I’m learning something I’m listening I’m reading and stuff and things goes along in certain methods and as far as books being published, that’s the best way for them to be published as step by step because they’re the clearest and easiest format in order to deliver this visual information. The irony is, that’s not the best way to understand the full picture of art. Art’s like a bowl of spaghetti, it’s all intertwined. And only until you can unravel it, like dna, can you understand how all those parts go together. So rather than look at it as linear step by step or rules that as an artist once you wanna change or deviate from that particular style, you will break those rules and you’ll find that they no longer work for you any more. Well you can follow a process of the step by step process and you’ll end up making images with that same result. The step by step process is really made and those rules are made to ensure that guaranteed you will be provided with a similar end result. Now if you’re doing a particular style of art then you wanna make sure that it stays within that style or if you’re an artist that has a particular style that you are teaching other people, you’re gonna give them certain rules or ideas – the outcome of their marks will all fit within that given statement. But if that’s not your given statement, if you choose to go outside of that, if you wanna find your own style, if you wanna find how to put pictures together and be more visually literate it’s more important to learn, understand the overall parameters and the nature of this visual language than it is to just copy one manner or another manner or go until you run up against the wall and say I have to break those rules and then go onto something else. I would propose that as an artist what we do is we create images that would be compositions that are a clear statement. Okay. And our statement that we put down on a picture and walk away from, we put a frame on it and we walk away, that image has to stand alone. And that image has to have its own universe. It’s gotta be self contained. It has to raise its own questions, it has to have its own answers. Everything has to be contained within that image. That means there’s gonna be some passive areas, there’s gonna be some dynamic areas. Depending on what you’re doing the range of those is all gonna be part of that composition you put together. So we wanna look at the nature of this language. So what is this language and how does it work. Is it like music, is it like our written language, is it like a computer language. Well in fact it’s really most like a sense of a computer language if you will. It’s more a fractal based system. because since we’re looking for patterns and working off of patterns, we can look at a self scaling or scaling with interruption within intervals we’re looking at a range of scaling with different disruptions in it. So it’s more like that. On the other hand we have like our alphabet has a certain number of letters okay and our musical range has a certain number of notes, okay, and what we do with those letters completes our expression on how we do it. Our visual language has a set number of finite components as we looked at before we have to have a value system so there is two methods of measure, the way we measure or evaluate these parts okay. And then we have an area of expression and that would be how we chose to put that down, put those relationships down on paper, or paint. And all in all these seven components, two methods of measure, three primaries of design, all coming together, it becomes the nature of our visual language, our vocabulary if you will. Now within this visual vocabulary, there is no grammar. That means – what I mean by that is there’s no preset rules for putting one mark next to another. We don’t always put one mark next to another because that’s the rule and that’s what we need to do. Now there is one form of art that I’m familiar with where every brush stroke has a name and the master that craft you have to understand how to understand how to do that stroke, it has to be used in the proper order and it’s very disciplined, okay. But in the nature of other types of art, outside of that one discipline, art is a full broad range. We don’t have set marks or set ways to put certain marks together in order to create certain acceptable visual structures. Okay. So that keeps things pretty infinite. It could kind of be a little bit mind blowing when you think about that. But on the other hand, it is allowing us to get read broad range of expression. So what are those components and how do we break those down. Well I’ve looked at a lot of different books and a lot different artists and the books that I found with the best information on composition I found that the artist who are extremely gifted in putting information down and in composition themselves, the terminology they use is a little different from artist to artist. And their description of these components drift a little bit from artist to artist. Put them all out together and cross reference all of these things and put them together, you can see a pattern where he’s leaning towards this component and that component and they’re identifying many of them find the same components as very valuable or these root components for image making. And so what those components are are briefly line, tone, color, shape, space, rhythm, (writing) and direction. (writing) Now where film is involved, where movement is involved, where time is factor, like in music, we have movement. So I’m gonna include that in here. Now these components, these seven components, they have many different ways of expression, okay. These are the root ones and they will always kind of fall. Anything that you can imagine, any situation, is gonna fall under these parameters or these primary components. So in terms of line it’s not the physical line that I draw with a pencil. Line here might be an implied line. It might be a horizon line, which is an implied line, it’s not a drawn line. it would be an implied line. You have an eye line. An eye line. If I’m looking in a certain direction, that’s gonna be my eye line. It’s a very powerful tool within your composition. Okay. Tone is a value structure. Okay. It’s your light and dark contrast and the range within that color, hue, value, and saturation. Value and tone are pretty synonymous but your color is hue, value, and saturation, and how those three things work together. Shape, any variety of shapes, repetition of shapes, difference of shapes, all of these things are all of the shapes of things, positive, negative shapes, all work within this parameter. Space we have a few different dimensions to how we see and work with space. Limited space, where everything’s flat to the picture plane. Okay. Or that flat space where everything’s flat to the picture plane. Limited space might be light a picture box. Worked in this limited space quite a bit and then deep space where we have perspective, where things look like they have a vanishing point and things have a rate of convergence, things that have this deep space. We also have ambiguous space. That space that is created by components or visual elements that don’t make sense. When your spacial depth is a little bit disturbed – like German expressionism – or M.C. Escher did that on purpose on his images. He would lead you down one idea of space and then distort that and kinda play with your perception of space. Rhythm. Rhythm works on a couple different levels. Rhythm works on a 2D level just like you’d see notes on a chart that would go up and down on a flat piece of paper. Then you also have the rhythm of things that are in deep space and different arrangements of forms will create rhythms. Rhythm might happen as your eye moves over a form into shadow shapes or through passages from one object or one element to another. From one spacial thing to another, a background or a figure ground relationship, these things could change. Direction revolves around every shape has a certain type of balance and it has a direction. That means there’s certain forces on those shapes. A circle – I’ll just do a little diagram here. A circle is a series of dots all equidistant from one dot. This circle is a shape that has no direction because everything is equidistant from that one dot. If I make more of an oblong shape of the circle has a balance right off the middle too, a visual balance off the middle. This oblong shape might have a balance that sits over here, okay. Or if it’s counterbalanced it’s gonna be off center, it’s not gonna be on center. And what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna see force moving this direction and that direction. So now this oblong shape from its balance and its direction will give you some kind of eye movement and that’s how we’re gonna start building things around. The only eye movement on here can be in a 2D manner that goes around the circumference. It only works on a 2D. This can work 2D, 3D in volumetric space. So we have these seven visual components okay. And then we have – we need a method of measure. How do we value these things? Are they similar, are they different, do we contrast them by similarity or group them by similarity and difference? Of course, we deal with them similar and different. But we also deal with – and this is included is major and minor key. (writing) Okay. So this is the portion of one thing. Large proportion, it’s just a little symbol for that. And this is a range of contrast. I put another little tone in here so it doesn’t look like just a range of contrast and this is the proportion to this. And this is the contrast range. (writing) Okay. So this minor key measures what is our value range in this case, just because I’m using black and white, the range of contrast okay and this is your greater proportion. All of these can be measured in both of these ways. We can look at our minor key, our range of contrast, with line, within the image what’s the range of contrast of line. Okay. Color, what’s the range of contrast. We might say okay we’re gonna do painting that has a blue key, how much of that image is blue and out of the other colors, what’s the range of contrast from that initial blue, is the rest of the image or the other colors involved. So you can see This is our method of measure. So these are our components. (writing) Components and this is methods of measure. (writing) Okay methods of measure. And then we have some stylistic differences that run the range of – infinite range of styles. Okay. And those are kind of laid out on this primary – primary triad system, much like if you think of color being three primary components of red, yellow, blue. And any mixtures of those theoretically will give you any color. Well we have line, or texture. (writing) Okay. Form, (writing) mass, okay. And you might read about these in different publications or different books. Form is created by the effect of light vs shadow. So that’s chiaroscuro. (writing) It’s an Italian term meaning light vs. shadow. And mass, which I call mass here, is Notan which is a Japanese term for light versus dark. So we have a light versus dark patterning, we have light versus shadow, and we have line or texture. Now line as a marking on a piece of paper. And that mark can be thick, it can be thin, it can imply different things, these marks that I put down, they don’t describe form nor mass. Okay. If I drew a circle here, I’ll do it down here. If I draw a circle like this and I have a thicker side to this line down here. (writing) I might imply that there’s a light direction coming this way. That might be the implication of that. The other hand I might put lines on here that might be a cross hatch lines. Those again are lines that are describing form. Okay. Mass or Notan. If I use lines I can use lines and describe Notan as well by putting marks, by keeping them within the boundary of that shape. (writing) These lines create a texture within that boundary. That boundary becomes the mass and so now line works with that. So I can use these – actually I can use all of three of these to support one another. They mix like color almost, almost like a triad of color, but here’s the interesting thing. If you had a triad of color where you have red, yellow, blue, our triad of – our primaries of design – I’m gonna put these up here. (writing) Primaries of design, that’s where this falls. Now with this, this will help explain styles just all through history. All through history are different, if you look at images in a museums, in history books, you’ll see that these different styles, though they might be originated for one reason or another, many reasons all through history, different cultures, and so on. If you look at them just for their graphic interpretation, not the historical significance, not to dilute that, but what I’m saying is if you look at them only from their graphic standpoint, you could take a whole timeline of art history and reorganize it by its graphic dominance, and it would make a whole lot more sense in terms of for artists. When you start to look at it that way you can see that it’s a full spectrum of styles that can be created, just by how you bias the marks you put down. Now just like color. So I started to say just like color, your primary color’s a red, yellow, blue, in your subtractive medium. and in that subtractive medium of red, yellow, and blue, when you mix those primaries together theoretically in equal parts you get gray, mud, acromatic. You get something that’s neutral. Okay. And not – that has no chroma. If you’re working with light on a computer then you’re dealing with yellow, cyan, and magenta, or red green, blue, on a t.v. screen. And if you add those together you create white light. Now white light again. It’s acromatic, it’s void of chroma. Okay. So like subtractive and additive color, your primaries of design, these primaries, the way they work you can add these two like to add color, you might add a red and a blue. The combination of violet is the opposite of yellow okay. So you can add two primaries and cancel out the third. Now with this situation, you can actually add two components or two primaries and create the illusion of the third. That’s the difference between color and this primary of design. So any kind of dramatic arrangement is going to have its own dynamics. So you have to look for the dynamic within any triatic arrangement. The interesting thing here that it does have in common with color is if you are doing a drawing or a painting and your marks that you put down, your arrangement of brush strokes and so on, if the line or texture you put down in form and mass are mixed in a way that appear even, you’ll get design mud. Actually your image will not read very well. So it’ll be confusing. So in order to clear that up, you should have some bias towards one or the other. And you can use the other as secondary. Doesn’t mean the whole image has to be that way, what it means is is any area within your image, if you’re unclear on whether what’s dominant, whether it’s the form dominant or mass dominant or line and texture dominant, then you’re gonna be in trouble. So as infinant as the possibilities are to create great art, there’s one common thing that we can do to really make a mess of it and that is have equal parts of all of this or mix them together in a way that it looks indeterminable about what’s important or which is the most important bias or personal direction you have. So as our visual language goes, these are the basics. We have seven visual components, we have two methods of measure and we have three primaries of design. And working with these components is how we start building images and building this visual vocabulary. In this little diagram you can see the image in the upper left is a symbol, it’s a yin yang symbol, but it also is a great example of Notan or light versus dark. You can see it sits flat on the page and it doesn’t show any representation of form whatsoever. It’s just the local values. In the image right next to it to the right form is designated by all white and black and it’s all just what’s in light and what’s in shadow. There’s no highlight, no light zone, there’s no reflected light, it’s just all divided into two values, just white and black. But the shape of it represents light versus shadow. Now the image in the upper right, I just put a midvalue gray in the background so that we can determine these circle and sphere as clear shapes. And you can see that with the three values I really see the Notan stand out as black and white, a good high contrast and also form as a real strong contrast. But we see the volumetric quality that the light and shadow shape creates. Now the bottom left two images, I’ve combined both Notan and chiaroscuro. And like any situation and like I’ve described with our matrix where you have one end of the spectrum is chaos and the other monotony, we find harmony somewhere in the middle. Well to consider our matrix by being made up of Notan and chiaroscuro, or local values and form, where the effect of light on those local values, we have to look at it as a full spectrum. So the image on the lower left is form dominant. So it has local value of the yin yang symbol in there, the flat tonal value but it also has a strong influence or effect of light versus shadow. So we might say that image is form dominant. The image just to the right of it which is Notan dominant, this image also has the local values and it has the effect of light or form added to it. But the form is combined at a much lesser scale and in this case it’s a little bit more mass or Notan dominant. If I refer to mass, I’m considering it as your local values. So this is a situation where, again, the lower left images, the one on the left is more form dominant because you can see the light shadow is the dominant connection or puzzle piece if you will that create that design and the one just to the right is more mass dominant. Now in the bottom right you can see that I’ve added a highlight, a half tone, some reflected light, a little diffusion, and a little bit of occlusion underneath the ball. And it seems quite a bit more dimensional when this is really the result of both form and Notan under a lighting condition that sits somewhere in the middle, just like I described between the chaos and monotony there is a harmony that we find somewhere in the middle. We’ve talked about major and minor key and your matrix, your design matrix and we talked about Notan and chiaroscuro and right now we’re starting to realize that there’s a lot of things involved with creating a good design, a good value design, in your image. So I’m gonna back up just a minute and I’ll show you those. We first start with your matrix. That’s that design pattern. Okay. And we have major key. (writing) And minor key. (writing) And then we have… (writing) So our matrix works as our design pattern. (writing) Okay. So whatever our design pattern is that’s creating the pattern that we’re gonna have this, the major light and major darks within our image. This pattern is our matrix. Now we have the major key and minor key. And our major key is proportion, how much light if we’re talking about value, how much light to dark there is in the image and your minor key is your range of contrast. Whether it’s high contrast or a little less. Okay. It’s your range of contrast within this image. Now you notice that we started with a matrix that is just black and white and that’s the skeleton of your image. So if you wanna deal with your values and have a strong image at the end then you design that matrix up from and stick with it all the way through. Okay. A lot of things are gonna change, you’ll see how we build nuances into your value structure but you have to start with a clear statement. Okay. And we’ll start with defining it through our matrix. Then as you observe, you’re gonna ask yourself questions like is this image overall light,t is it overall medium, what is – where in this image is the greatest amount of contrast and where is the least amount of contrast. Okay. So you’re gonna be dealing with these. Now in terms of the design of your matrix, this dark shape compared to your light shape. This is the what. Okay. What is defined as your dark and what is defined as your light? Are you defining your dark shapes versus by light and shadow where you might have something like a light side kinda shadow shape. Is this what’s going to determine what your image is about and how you define your matrix or is it going to be more of a pattern? (drawing) Okay. A pattern of local value. All of these factors are important when you’re dealing with value. You have to go through these in order to or be aware of these in setting up a complete image. Okay. That has some harmonies in it. It could still go wrong, you could still go wrong with these, but if you have a clear matrix, you clearly assess your major and your minor key and how they go together, you determine where the light source is or how you’re using light, versus shadow or you’re making it more Notan dominant where your local values are more dominant. Okay. Then you’re going to be paying attention to these as well. Now the last part is managing those values so that you get clear distinction and keep a clean matrix. Okay. And that is that’s gonna take place on my color scale. So I’m gonna start with black down here. I’m just gonna go with the regular value scale from black up to white. (drawing) Okay. Somewhere like this. (drawing) Okay so we have this scale going from white to black. And this is an even scale as it goes down. Now for visual clarity if you want to keep a clear matrix and a clear painting and set your values in a way that you’re going to keep a strong read in your image, even if it’s a subtle overcast day or it’s a bright sunny day, it doesn’t matter. The determination there is gonna be your minor key. So whether it’s a sunny day or an overcast day, this is where you’re gonna need to determine that. But in your design and how that’s broken down and then the contrast range in here can be broken down in another way too. And here’s the key to hold it all together. We’ve all heard – or many of your guys have heard – about taking just give basic values or doing any image that you paint, break it into five simple values. Okay. Some artists have done that kind of a thing. My misunderstanding was that it was five specific values, that you would select any five values that was appropriate for that image and you use only those values. So we start with this value range from white to black and for clarity’s sake you might want to break your image into a smaller number of basic values or value groups. Here we started out with black and white and you might wanna do that for any sketch, any preliminary sketch that you do you might wanna break it into just black and white to being with. The reason being is by doing that, you clearly design the skeleton of the design pattern of your image. Very important. Okay. Secondly what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna need to determine immediately what falls in light and what falls in shadow. Or what falls in partial light and what is dominant by local value. Doesn’t mean your whole image is going to be all chiaroscuro or all notan. Most of our paintings and most of the paintings that you look at are a combination of the two and they slide from one to the other. Even our value scale like this, if we have dark values, if you go outside and you’re wearing dark clothing, the difference between contrast in this dark range is minimal compared to the value range in the midsection. Something of a middle value will show up more contrast when affected by light, a dark range or our light range. So if you’re wearing something very light or you’re wearing something very dark, it will show up a little less contrast in direct light than you will get in your midrange, your maximum amount of contrast in here. So that’s something to note. It’s not just a linear light versus shadow where there’s no rule in there. Okay. It’s really a case of how light affects objects or how strong the contrast is between local values. But the key to get clarity in this situation is just this. As you’re painting and you determine your light pattern and your dark pattern, you’re gonna need to determine that you have maybe five basic values. And instead of solid simple values, just one value, maybe just this narrow value right there, you’re gonna look at value ranges. So you might have five value ranges. So just an arbitrary stab at this, it’s the content that’s important, so what I’ll do is I’ll set up a couple ranges of value. Now maybe I have something close to black in my painting but this darkest value range goes from here to possibly here. So I’m gonna have this range in my image. My next step up might be somewhere in here and it might be this narrow range and something in here might be like that and maybe I have a narrow range in here or maybe something sits as a complete light. Okay now this is really important because what happens is if I’m using this range here and I’m using this range and this range, this range and this range, I’ve done something very important here. What I’ve done is eliminate this range of value, eliminate that range, eliminate that range, and eliminate that range. Okay. So I’m actually removing these ranges of value that sit between my groups. One, two, three, four, five. These others I’m getting rid of. And I find you don’t need those in – you don’t need them. A lot of times we look at and say oh it’s a subtle painting, it’s beautiful, it’s subtle, and we wanna use a full value range. Selecting these value groups will give you the ability to create beautiful value ranges within those value groups. Now the value groups are important because they’re going to sit within this design pattern. Now if you do have all these intermediate values what will happen is your edges will break down and your image will become mushy. And that’s the major problem with a lot of our values structures. Our values get a little bit mushy in our paintings. And in order to overcome that, start with a clear design pattern, identify your major, minor key then while you’re doing your pattern you’re gonna be looking for where’s the strongest effective light and where’s the least amount effective light and how do those light and dark areas feed in and out of one another. Again support the design of the image. Once you have that, then you can put things down with these value groups. So we’ll see in a demonstration how the value grouping will help you out. Empower your creativity with the internet’s leading subscription library for artists at NMA.art. No matter what your skill level you can learn drawing, painting, sculpture, and much more with thousands of videos taught by master instructors. Our instructors are professional artists and best selling authors, leading art education with over 40 books in print around the world. Our cutting edge interactive learning format takes art instruction to a new level. Learn at your own pace, anytime, anywhere. Take advantage of our self study assignments and beautiful references to practice your artistic skills. Our mission is to provide exceptional training to artists around the world at an affordable price. Thousands of artists just like you have used our library to take the first step into the art world, open new career possibilities and improve their professional skills. NMA.art is the most comprehensive art training on the internet. Your subscription is everything you need to reach your artistic goals. Let us transform your art and unleash your creative potential. Start your free trial today at NMA.art. Okay on this drawing I’m gonna look at space division and how we use the tonal contrast and stuff with this space division. Okay. (drawing) Okay. in this image I can see it’s in pretty much three parts. I can see it falling into three parts. And I can find that there is a smaller portion here. Okay. And a larger portion here. And our main activity in this image is in this area here. Okay. In this middle section in here as our eye kinda moves down here into this. And this is where our highest contrast is. Okay in this area. So within the whole image, there’s lights and there’s darks, but within this image, this is the area where there’s more of these broken light areas and the light is actually leading our eye around in here in these different shapes in here. So I also have an area over here that’s high up here that is offering some bits of break up here like this. Okay so I’ll start filling in what these abstract shapes are. And out a window. There’s a little bit of light out a window here. Now I’m looking at this division. I’ve got a small, medium, and large shape across here, this is pretty much the darker area, this is broken up but this has the most small breakup in here. So what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna get this larger break up first, you know, the larger shapes in here. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) So there’s some of the larger shapes. This is the boundary of that dark zone. (drawing) Okay so this is our darker area here across to this side and then it breaks into this activity, this area where there’s activity in this third of the image right here so I’m going to kind of define where that boundary is and then like I said, this area over here, this third also has some dark patterning in it but big simple areas they aren’t like this area in the middle where there’s so much activity. Okay. (drawing) This is four women sitting in this room. (drawing) And at this point I’m really more interested in getting the shapes and the patterns. I’m seeing that these, you know, this is the main division and this is where this activity is. So I wanna make sure that I get that in here first. And that break up of how these shapes actually work. (drawing) So within the composition again I’m looking for the area of the composition where I have the most amount of contrast, this case being light over the overall dark and broken up light. So this is the lighter region in this third and it also has the greatest amount of break up in this third. So I wanna make sure that this area and easily up in this area where we have closure between these four women we’re gonna have the most interesting bit of contrast up there than we do around the rest of the picture. This area over here is gonna be kind of a – it works as an area of relief actually, it’s a large dark area. (drawing) And it works as a place of rest for our eyes. And across here too we have a situation here where there’s a little bit of light coming in the window, it’s hitting a couple of the forms in here that’s breaking this up a little bit buy not nearly as much as we get over into this area. (drawing) This is a situation we have a little bit of the the dark and the light and the light going into the dark and we wanna interweave those just like we’re interlocking these things and creating these patterns around. So I’m holding onto the edge here where it’s dark over light and light over dark. Back here as well. And holding onto the edge here where it’s dark and then we’re the top of her bandanna goes, rolls over the top of her head. I’m keeping that light. Most of her back here is dark but it’s not as dark as this over here so I’m gonna make that a little darker there. Okay. She works as pretty much a dark silhouette. (drawing) And (drawing) this works. There’s a little bit of light coming across here of direct light on this angle here and then we get up into this shadow that pulls her eye back over this way. It leads your eye back into this area here. (drawing) There’s a big mass up in there. There’s a lot of light on the front of her face there so we’ll keep that illuminated. Side of her, the second woman over here. There’s a dark over here. (drawing) And we’re gonna use that to hold onto the front of her face over there. (drawing) We can see how these shapes kinda start to work together. (drawing) Broken up in there and then there’s a couple folds in here. And this is the front of her skirt in there is in light and then this is in shadow down here so that light pattern follows through all the way in here. Okay. So clearly this area in here has quite a bit of the break up and I need to put a little bit more contrast in here in order to along these shapes I’m looking for the areas of greater contrast. They’re just gonna pull these shapes apart. (drawing) It’s not about features, it’s about directing your eye. I’m using these shapes, these women and their shapes to direct your eye through here. I’m gonna hold on to the darkness of her shoulder to show the illumination behind filling in the middle there between them, that kinda space in there. There’s a darker – it’s like a picture in here. (drawing) So I’m working around this area, I’m working for the contrast that I’m seeing in here and I’m pushing to find those little bits that actually are moving the viewer’s eye around the image and that’s where I wanna go, I wanna move the eye around the image so I’m going around these forms. I’m making sure I get dark over light and light over dark and pushing these – pushing one thing in front of the other and I’m going back and forth with some of these. (drawing) Bring her bandanna back a little bit and that way I can lengthen her neck a little bit this way too. Make it appear that she has a longer neck and I’m gonna use her hair as a dark accent to continue to follow up here. It is dark down in here behind her. I can use the pattern here (drawing) on her scarf to again accent this movement around here. In this area I can use a little bit more of that pattern just delicately along the edge there. It’ll make this a little bit darker in here to enhance the contrast of light in there. The feeling of light in there. By putting a dark next ot it over here. (drawing) Okay. Now I can go with some of my darker or darkest darks in some of these areas that this isn’t quite so bright. (drawing) And I wanna get the form of her arm in her other arm in there and also this woman’s form of her arm coming in here too. These are all really strong lines kinda moving into this area and then they’re stopped by this going into shadow right down here. (drawing) And then her dress is darker than her apron so I’m gonna make this a little bit darker in here. I’m gonna get another break in that value group. (drawing) I know I’m trying to go faster. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) And these are darker shapes in here, these are gonna be kind of directional elements, it comes out here and then down like this. These lead us into that – into this action. Up here. And then underneath, this is dark shape in here but this whole dark shape it’s purpose as well is to lead our eye up into that. that region. (drawing) And this is oversimplified here. I keep this simple. I think the original – the artist kept this simple in order that this area would remain as an area of relief, okay, for all this activity going on in here. Okay. (drawing) Alright. (drawing) I’m just gonna bring this shape down a little bit more. (drawing) Now the different arcs and so on that we get in order to push your eye around in these areas, those are all gonna lay into the anatomy of the characters and stuff. My first initial idea with this the contrast pattern down where we get a situation where the greater contrast is in this zone. Okay. Okay this area is darker and this is passive. (drawing) Okay. This area here is high contrast. Okay. And it’s active. Meaning the shapes are moving in a lot of different directions. In this area, this one’s kind of a mix. Okay. This is a mix but it has strong directional marks. This mark coming up here moves right back up in here and this one in here, these are simple but real strong dynamic marks. So (drawing) okay. So these marks over here are more simple and dynamic. And the idea here is when I’m breaking down is the artist had these things going. He created a rhythm, he created tension in here, okay. And he created some balance between this passive darker area that let your eye rest, move your eye up here where there’s a little more high contrast and move a more active movement through here. And then this on this side here is simple but directional. It always keeps bringing your eye in here even on this passive side there’s still some little bits of directional angles going on here and this leading your eye in. Even if I made it lighter here and it gradiates a little bit darker there. Our eye will have a tendency to go towards this direction because that’s where the higher contrast is. Okay. Even in here this is – there’s some bushes outside of this window that get a little bit darker in here that kinda help define some of the edges both on her scarf and her scarf as well. (drawing) Okay. Again we can follow these, these are important as well, how things move around so it goes over her hip. Around her ribcage, shoulder comes around this way, it all helps push back, back, back. Even the cut of her apron on here that slides down her leg. This is straighter down in here but it brings your eye up into here to over, over, over. Brings your eye into here, moving around these shapes, more vertical shapes here with some patterning and then these shapes again they come up and then the underside of her neck just thrusts you right back into this group. So from under here, under her arms in here, this is a real strong contrast of these closer planes to her arm. And then like this. Steps you right back into from one girl’s arm to the next girl’s arm and their dress and how they play. Okay. So look for the division of zones in your work too. Because that will help create patterns that will make the whole thing kind of read together and harmonize. Okay this image that I’m gonna draw is less about aerial perspective and it’s gonna be more of a Notan situation. So it’s gonna be more of shape dominant or mass dominant. So in this case I’ll start out with my composition or my ground. (drawing) This is a painting by Gwen John. (drawing) Okay. I’m gonna stop right here, here’s some of the background elements. Okay. In this situation I’ll go back in here and I wanted to just block out the silhouette first and then what I’m gonna show you is particular in an image – I mean it works with 2D and 3D images but when I say 2D and 3D flat or Notan dominant or form dominant images, it works both. Your image should read graphically and 2D patterns and also 3D space. This is gonna be shallow or flat 3D space on the figure here. We have a little bit of this back going in so it does give us a little bit of an angle so it’s kind of a limited space in here. Mostly she’s gonna be played up very flat. Okay. Now in order to maintain a design and keep the strength of that through this, I’m gonna look for the shapes of all these elements in here. So there’s a couple things that I’m gonna be looking for throughout this whole piece and one is from side to side I’m gonna be looking at different angles. So this is a nice passive sweep up there, where this on this side comes out, down, out, down, out here, and then comes around, down, and down. So you see I have a an active side and passive side. At this on this side over here it’s gonna swoop down like this. Okay. So I have this, creates a force out here but this is passive against this active side. Okay. Now once I hit here, this goes very passive. Okay. And in turn, this, the folds, her arm comes here, forearm comes out from here, so it’s gonna sweep in here and then there’s a couple folds on her shirt. Okay. So what’s gonna happen here? I went from passive and this is active. I went over here to active and this is passive. So I’m moving your eye across this form, from one side to the other. Okay. And then I’m gonna bring your eye around because I wanna continue this – so I wanna have this hand overlapping that. The hands in here feel like a large mass but it’s because all the fingers are connected. (drawing) And it’s important that you get the roundness of this because what’s gonna happen is it’s gonna tell you the volume around her arm. (drawing) There’s a cat sitting in her lap. (drawing) And then on this side over here, I wanna make sure we feel how the her sleeve goes over or around her arm. Then her dress is gonna come out to the side here and then down. (drawing) The difference here between narrow and wide is gonna give us the difference that we have a change here and it’s pulled tighter here. So I’ll keep this wide where this is wide over here and it’ll feel like it splays out just a little bit more. Just pushing tension, you can see it wider here, wider here, to push tension from this side all the way across over to here and pull out to the side here under her arm. Then the back of her dress is a little but of a curve there so I have a little bit of curve here and a stronger curve down here. So I’m pushing these things back and forth and moving your eye up. Now this is gonna come up in here, this comes up in here, sleeve comes just – starts to cut across this and this brings your eye up to the cat’s eyes. And I’m drawing things, I’m going over these things, drawing them by their importance to the total and how they affect the whole image. The cat’s ear is a dominant feature because it’s a strong triangle. Its back. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) This goes over her shoulder, that becomes important and this becomes important. (drawing) This wraps around over her shoulder, this wraps around over her shoulder and then comes back this way. This has a direction to it. Says her body is going this way so I push it out that way. (drawing) Now being designed pretty much by Notan, the features, her features, are gonna be really understated because I’m not gonna go completely into really a strong light versus shadow here, what I’m gonna look at is just the subtlety that I can find in this area. That’s gonna back her features a little bit more delicate because I’m gonna come back here now with her hair and here hair’s a pretty strong contrast. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) And this is a nice easy sweep over here. I’m gonna see that this is coming this way and then coming back over here and then wrapping around down here is wrapping around where her jaw is here and then tied to her neck back here. (drawing) The crown of her head comes up here just a little bit. (drawing) Okay. Now on her garment and the cat, they seem to blend together. So they’re a pretty dark pair. And that tends to group together. So I’m gonna group those. (drawing) Now as far as my matrix goes, you can see this transition, I’m going from one mass right into the other. (drawing) That simplifies this design pattern, they’re not as many separate marks. They actually blend one right into the other. It goes right into here and the same thing going into the cat, in and out of the cat. We transition right in and right out of that cat, holding on to specific edges, end marks that will define it. Its eyes and its ear. Okay. And then her apron. (drawing) There’s another value that holds together as a simple silhouette. (drawing) Okay. And in this area though they were white dots, I’m gonna make them black dots. Doesn’t matter here. (drawing) The important thing is is that these dots only exist within this zone. Like I was mentioning before about Notan and texture. These little dots are marks that all sit within a zone so they help this design pattern remain distinctive. Okay. In the background we have just a simple value change, a little bit darker here and a little darker down here. (drawing) So now that I have these distinctive areas, I’ve got this – I can put a little tone back here in the background (drawing) And if I’m doing an image that is pretty flatly lit, either an overcast day outside or whether I wanna do a painting that has some strong value, maybe a costume with some strong values, I’ll lay it in like this. And then once it’s in here like this, then I start looking at my edges and how my edges work because when I working in a situation like this where I’m dealing with dark contrast instead of light shadow contrast or chiaroscuro, anytime I’m dealing with something like this I’m gonna find that I’m gonna get a lot of mileage out of my edges. I’m gonna watch those edges. And so the edges that I’m gonna find along her hair, okay, or subtle little marks in here, you know, if (drawing) I simplify some of these areas so that we we see some distinction in there, I have this subtle changes in this little zone and what I’ll do is also put some subtle changes within this zone because this is her skin, this is where her hands are, okay. And what I’ll do is I’ll get a couple little subtle marks in here that’s gonna kinda merge with the subtlety that I might see in this zone. Or not merge with it but you’re gonna associate these two areas in here. (drawing) Maybe her thumb goes down in here a little bit. This one sits on top. (drawing) I’ll go in and correct some of my shapes in here. (drawing) Keeping those similar. If I started to smudge one I need to smudge the other just to make sure that they stay similar. (drawing) And an image like this might be appealing to some people, some people might feel that it’s a little bit too graphic for them but I wanna show you the difference of designing something by light shadow and atmospheric perspective versus something that you might do by the value patterns and set up a situation like this. So I’m gonna do a couple of sketches like this so that you can see the difference and we’ll go back and forth and back and forth. That way you see the range that you can get. So this is all I’m gonna do on this one but I’m looking for for those simple design patterns, I’m looking for areas that are gonna be passive against active and I’m moving across the forms that way. I’m not really drawing down the form, I’m not really working a lot with structure here, I’m really looking across the form and building some kind of a gesture from one mark, moving our eye across from the edges of these boundaries to these masses that might move your eye up. So I have something like this and this that might splay you out this way. But I also have the tension of these two pushing this direction from this way across to this way. So she’s not just falling off the frame. Okay. I can enhance that a little bit by making it feel like a little bit more perspective if I wanted to get a little more perspective in there by just making this go a little bit straighter. You see? So it looks like it curves up and goes that way. So I’m moving my shapes, that’s what’s important in this pattern type of design. You wanna play with your shapes and work with your shapes and then your values and edges. Okay. (drawing) So normally if I was going to be drawing a composition on my own, maybe I would look at drawing a head first if it was like this man over here I might think about the head, figure out where he get his proportions from his head down to where his feet might be and then get his proportions and get him all set based on his proportions. Okay that might be how I would start a drawing But if I’m looking at, you know, maybe I’d even start with a head and look at a chest or a ribcage maybe the pelvis where the legs are gonna be and how he’s gonna stand. Or if his legs are gonna be back here, we’ll get a better balance on him. He’s upright, this kinda thing maybe the chin out here, something like that. I might be playing with this kind of rhythm in here and you’ve seen what I’ve been doing is looking at outside shapes, comparing positive and negative shapes. A little bit different than just focusing on drawing one figure. Because what I’m doing is I’m looking at at how he’s played one figure against the other and if I focus too much on just designing one figure at a time, then I’m getting into little details of designing a character rather than designing a scene. So the main idea with this looking at all of the different ways that he’s used to move your eye throughout this scene, back here, coming in here, he’s got another person standing here but they’re facing the other way. This guy standing in here. (drawing) Another guy standing behind here. Okay. And there’s another man standing right behind him here. (drawing) His ear, he’s facing this man. (drawing) Now he’s holding a piece of paper here. (drawing) His pockets, break up that shape (drawing) His cheek, (drawing) mustache, the nose, and he’s wearing glasses. (drawing) Gonna bring the front of his hat out just a little bit. Okay. Curve that hat – that man back there. Not the front. There’s this dark area here. (drawing) Carry it back there. Continues back here. And a window coming up from this little deck here (drawing) back over behind her is a little bit more of this clear that’s holding all this rope. Okay. (drawing) So this is how we kind of look around this image and the light and dark patterns kind of move around this. The shape and his cuffs on leather cuffs and bare forearms and white shirt. Another person behind him here. This dark and this man, white pants. (drawing) Okay. And with all of this all of these shapes going into these different shapes and moving your eye and building these rhythms between all these shapes that push your eye from one area to the other, back and forth. There’s one kind of – we have this pattern on her dress. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) So we’re always looking for these things that move your eye and there’s some folds in here that move your eye, wrap around, so that they’re coming around the shape and then down like this, down like that. Over the top like this. (drawing) Okay. Now look at the light and dark patterning and see there’s another ship back over here and the sales are dark so it creates a silhouette there. (drawing) This is a real dark. (drawing) That’s the kind of along that dingy. (drawing) There’s a pattern on this that stays within that little zone back there and just eases us out of this dark silhouette. (drawing) His uniform is a dark silhouette against the lighter wall back there. (drawing) They both have lighter pants and then darker boots. (drawing) Again I’m saving that highlight to help build with the rhythm of this shape there. There’s a little subtle gradient on this shape kind of to soften this as we ease out of that. Okay so as I block in these darker values I can put in the large simple masses that I see and then I can lay in the darkest darks. Let me get the large simple shapes in there first. (drawing) And I’m looking at in terms of, you know, the big simple dark shapes first. I can put (drawing) these things in first and then I’ll put my darker values within this, like this guy’s bandanna over the top head. That holds as little separate shapes, there’s another guy back here that he’s in shadow, he’s pretty dark back here. He silhouettes against that so it’s like a third value in there. (drawing) It’s a gradient on there. (drawing) And I could be really, really careful about all of this but the main thing that I wanna get is just to kind of illustrate how all these pieces are just locked together in each shape moves into the next shape and works within each of the shapes to move your eye through this picture. (drawing) Okay. (drawing) I’m just pushing the darks on here just a little bit, just to make these shapes stand out just a little bit more and clarify this design pattern back here. There’s a dark back there that pushes you back in that area. But you can see what this pattern that is really – it could be very complex, it’s a little bit of a occlusion under here. Occlusion is an area where there’s no reflected light or the absence of reflected light. It almost works as the opposite of reflected light, down in here. And it helps anchor her to the ground and some of these other things to the ground like right along the edge. (drawing) In the overall pattern you wanna look for in your matrix, your overall design pattern, you wanna look at how one shape will lead into the other shape and how they’re gonna moving throughout your overall image. Because it’s really important if you’re gonna have a design that is or a drawing that is basically flat in nature or more graphic or it’s more form oriented or chiaroscuro, it’s still important to have a 2D read as well as the illusionary 3D read as well. When you have them both you can have a good strong 2D design and you have to have a good quality of depth or you’re gonna find that maybe you like form a little bit more and you’re gonna push it that way and maybe you’ll like something a little bit more graphic, you’re gonna push it a little bit more toward Notan like this but either way what you wanna do is you wanna incorporate a good 2D and 3D visualization in the same image and it’ll make it much stronger. So I would suggest do some comps, do some little drawings, do some studies of your favorite artists, other artists, artists that do different styles that are very different than what you do. Try those out and see why they work or what makes them work. In little sketches. You don’t have to do them this large you can do them smaller but it’s really important that you push yourself to experience that and yourself and get it in and try to look and see how they make alignments and how they make shapes and push forms. For this demonstration we’re gonna look at Dean Cornwell and how he might break down his composition. So we’re gonna take one of them and I’ll step through all of the alignments and rhythms that he creates with his shapes. It’s a Notan dominant composition so it’s light dark patterning composition so that has a tendency to make you more aware of or more concerned with the silhouetted shapes. So we’re gonna take that one and just go through it. Dean Cornwell was an illustrator, American illustrator, who did a lot of book covers and story illustrations and we’re gonna start with with one of his illustrations because he was so clear with his compositions, he’s a good find to look at for building relationships and rhythms throughout your composition. So we’ll start with a vertical format. This drawing is a vertical format. (drawing) Okay the first thing I’m gonna do when I I’m looking at this, I’m gonna create this composition, I’m looking for the eyeline of the characters and any obvious alignments or division of space, any 2D division of space. And the most obvious things going on here would be the eyeline seems to sit – of the character – seems to sit in this region. So I’ll draw this a little bit lightly. Now there is multiple characters in this composition. So what I’m gonna do is I wanna find where their eyelines are if they’re all on the same plane or if our view is above or below their eyeline. And it seems to be pretty close to all of them. So our viewing eyeline is pretty similar to what the characters are in that in this. So that kinda sets me up that the characters are gonna be in this line. Then I’m gonna look for any kind of other division of space. And I can see that there is a crate that comes in here. And again I’m drawing these shapes as they appear to be working within the whole composition. That’s why I’m not starting with one figure then drawing the other figure then drawing another figure, I’m gonna be drawing around, breaking this composition down from a large shapes to the small shapes. So – and the figures are just shapes within this. So I see that coming around here, coming around this composition, there’s another pole that comes up here and right along this edge, there’s an eyelet that stops our eye from dropping out of the frame, basically turns out eye here and follows up there. Coming back this direction is a step that comes up this way Okay. There’s a little bit of kind of a something that’s just off being symmetrical and it’s the base of a mass on the ship. And then as we have almost a horizontal coming in here, the top of this it’s going back in perspective and the top goes back like this. And as it might taper we have pulleys holding this up and they’re on – these pulleys, they aren’t round they’re an ellipse like this which gives us a directional force in this direction. Okay. So that’s this plane looks like it’s going back in space and these pulleys another one close to the side here are pulling ropes to hold it up and hold it back. So that supports this but it also works in our graphic design to be countering that angle. Over on this side we see (drawing) a silhouette of that. (drawing) Okay so this is one solid piece in here. From our eye level we also see that between the characters there’s another plane that goes back this way. So I’ll just kind of lightly lay that in. Around – I’m looking around this whole space now as well and I’m gonna look along the side and see what kind of alignments there are around the sides and I see there’s a general alignment coming down this way and as it comes across onto this side there’s things laying on the ground down here at a bit of angle like that. And you can see this brings our eye back up into here. So and then over the top again this helps move our eye over here like that. Okay bring your eye back into here. Coming down from the side here we have some (drawing) of the ground that’s going in there. This comes – this boom or the mass comes down into this region here. Okay. There’s a little dark area in there that’s part of this region that kind of closes this off and then up here. From here there’s the edge of the back of a little dingy and this edge helps move our eye down there so I’m gonna hold onto that section or that shape is gonna be pretty dominant there. This is gonna go that way along that side. (drawing) Underneath this there’s a couple more pulleys in there going this way. So you can see how these help flow and move your eye around, bringing you back in and then wrapping around here. These are just some lines that sag a little bit in here but you can see how it leads your eye up and then wraps around. So we’re moving around into this area, okay, coming around here and we’re gonna sweep right up into this area. He’s gonna stop your eye from going out. (drawing) And this is, again, this is some more rigging on the ship. (drawing) Okay. Now over on this side. (drawing) Again, having something that’s on an angle like this, it does create a force – this longitudinal surface there – it does create a force that works with this. So this is along the edge but this shape, because it’s shaped like this, it has a force that moves in this direction. So it also brings your eye down in here. This pulley comes up in here which creates another arrow like this, pointing down this direction, reinforcing this here. And then as this comes around, this stops your eye, we also have convenient fold in the canvas covering this storage area. There’s a little – a little canvas over the top that’s stretched over the top and a little wrinkle in it. It may seem insignificant but it’s very important to the composition. Okay. So that’ll help bring your eye back up around here. And then there’s a line that comes down, follows this forms and comes into the area here. And again one thing leading into another form, these shapes create – go into the bottom of a woman’s dress that plays along there. So I’m finding where she is based on all of the elements around her. (drawing) These lines go up here. (drawing) These are actually the belt of another sailor back here. Okay. So now that we’ve established like the first head here as we come up in here, I’m gonna go onto the next one which is the woman. (drawing) These are arms. They create a shape like that, her hands clasp in front of her over here. (drawing) Now from here I’m gonna go over – there’s a couple of men, she’s facing a couple men over there. What I’m gonna do is I’m gonna see where this goes up like this there’s some things on the ground down here. And from this side I already identified where this is, this is a box like a doctor’s kit – back of the doctor’s kit on the ground and first man’s boots. Now the reason I put this in and put the boots in first rather than start with his head up here, I wanna also notice that in line with this is the highlight on his boot. So it starts to bring your eye up here and up to his other boot. So that’s why it makes it more important in there, this shape. That’s how I can find that shape coming up. Now from here over the back of the boat is another person in the back and then this officer here. This is the brim of his hat and I’m just kind of following it. And these two are working as a dark silhouette so this man’s face is coming this way, is a little bit taller than she is. His collar is is a very white shape. (drawing) Empower your creativity with the internet’s leading subscription library for artists at NMA.art. No matter what your skill level, you can learn drawing, painting sculpture, and much more, with thousands of videos taught by master instructors. Our instructors are professional artists and best selling authors leading art education with over 40 books in print around the world. Our cutting edge, interactive learning format takes art instruction to a new level. Learn at your own pace anytime, anywhere. Take advantage of our self study assignments and beautiful references to practice your artistic skills. 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11 thoughts on “How To Nail Composition with Bill Perkins

  1. Thank you so much for this lecture. Thanks to NMA, and to Bill Perkins in particular. Basic primary information, perfectly explained!! I wish you get more and more views.

  2. Pleaze upload the reference photo if you can so we can see what hes drawing unless of course its from imagination

  3. I just want to ask wht is compositional experiment because we are asked to do a compositional experiments based on these two artists and their names are Valerie Roybal and Alma Thomas. Please help

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