Composition & WHY it’s so important
Composition is the first step to developing a piece with any artwork. Before putting paint on a brush, you have to sit down and think, “what is my objective?” Composition is the way you, as an artist, communicate to the viewers. In this article, you’ll see how much of a difference composition makes when you change it around. Before we dive into that, let’s find out what composition is! Composition is how your subject is situated on your substrate. Let’s continue.
What are “classic” compositions? Classic compositions are typically what first comes to mind when we talk about composition – centered, nothing unusually cropped, and balanced. Those are pretty much the three ingredients of a classic composition. If you look at almost any Renaissance artists, you’ll see those elements in their paintings. Hint hint, this is why we call them classic – it’s because of the classic artists that used them. After a while, these compositions can become pretty static, it becomes “same old, same old.” That isn’t to say you’ll end up with a boring painting – not at all! Classic compositions are important to practice from, and we have proof throughout history that they don’t make up a boring painting. Classic compositions usually say “this is the subject. That’s all.”
It wasn’t until Georgia O’Keeffe came around that experimentation with composition became a thing. Think about it this way: Georgia O’Keeffe was painting during the turn of the century in the 1900’s. Before and during her time were masters like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, among many, many others. Even Van Gogh had compositions with elements taken from the Old Masters. Why? Because artists during that time didn’t even think to play around with cropping. Can you image? It didn’t occur to them that they could crop a figure’s face in half. That’s why O’Keeffe is dubbed the Mother of Contemporary Art; O’Keeffe started to play around with cropping so extreme, that her flowers became almost abstract. Check out how our message can change when we crop one of the poses we had during a live model session at the studio.
These few examples can give you an idea of how much fun you can have with only one subject. What’s more is that we haven’t even done all the compositions you can do with this image, and you still have enough material to do more than half a dozen paintings! If you’ve ever come to a live model session, and you’re not feeling the whole model set up, try to focus on a key point that captures your interest. Maybe it’s the models ruffles on her wrists, or her makeup. The message your composition displays can also be a reflection of how you feel. Maybe you want to practice drawing hands, and that’s why you chose to crop everything but the hands. The message doesn’t have to be a story, it could simply be because you felt like it.
You have so much freedom as an artist, it’s kind of crazy.