Composition exercises


170321a (2017) oil on canvas 16 x 12.4cm

Small doodles, thinking about composition, trying to keep the eye moving around in the picture without sliding off one of the edges or getting stuck, but without making it too obvious.


170321b Face Left, Face Right (2017) oil on canvas 18.2 x 15.7cm

Funny how abstract shapes take on a certain sense of direction if they resemble facial features, even very vaguely. To me, the line going around the left side of the painting and the grey square in the top right look a bit like a face turning to the left, and the black line on the right looks like a nose facing right. My eye moves back and forth between the grey rectangle on the left (the “eye”, or maybe the lens of a pair of sunglasses?) and the “nose” on the right. The pulling in both directions balances itself out. I can look around at the other parts of the picture, but always come back to the relationship between those two elements.


170321c Bunch of Flowers (2017) oil on canvas 15.1 x 18.1cm

Often when I’m trying to compose a picture I forget that balance need only be attained when the last element is put in. I put the first thing in, then try to balance it out with the second, then try to add another without unbalancing, etc. and end up sort of packing in every empty space. With this bunch of flowers, I tried to break that habit by loading more and more detail onto the right hand side, thinking that I’d finish the painting by putting one small thing in the empty space on the left to balance it out. When I finished the detail on the right, somehow the composition didn’t seem to need anything else. To my eyes, the empty space balances the detail no problem, although I don’t understand why.


3 thoughts on “Composition exercises

  1. I have just read quite a few of your blogposts all at once – they’ve been musings on your technical exercises and are no less interesting and illuminating for me as regards your thinking. Face Left, Face Right and Bunch of Flowers attract me straight away. They have movement and seeming intent.


  2. follow your instincts and leave value laden observations to me – like “obsess” hehe. If stuff is on you mind, let it dwell there, attend to it. An artist isn’t someone who ‘arrives’ at a certain spot, say with an exhibition, or a mainstream review, or a good sale or whatever. An artist is you, in the here and now – thinking and breathing and doing your thing which is painting, including your thinking your practising your correcting your obsessing yadda yadda


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