Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Compositional Ideas

I've had a couple of questions regarding the structure of the composition of this work, so will give a brief explanation of my thinking on this one now. First off, in the image above, I have split the work in half on the vertical center line. Since the figure was the main focus of the composition and her placement was pretty important, considering what was going to go on behind her and also considering the direction in which she is looking . . . making her 'look' the strong directional pull of the perceived movement in the work, her location was rather important. Thus, she sits just to the left of the center line, giving that important central focal point, but because she is looking right and would naturally pull the viewer's eye off to the right, the weight of her sunlit face needed to be left of center to balance the pull of her look to the right. As you can see, I put her as close to the center line as I could!

The strong horizontal 'x' formed by the two horses, bookending and giving interest on both extremes of the center line, helped also to add a bit more strength to the entry point, at the figure. The 'x' design on the back of her shirt was a wonderful, natural repeat of the 'x' movement of the larger composition.

Looking at just the left half of the work it would appear, at first, that there is a stronger amount of detail, perhaps throwing off the overall balance of the composition through the intensity of darks by means of the shadow falling across the horse's head and upper neck. But, my feeling was/is that by using strong sunlit highlights on the rear horse in the right half of the composition, the balance is maintained through a perception of equal weight to both halves of the overall composition. The addition of a strong area of shadow/darkness to the right of the rear horse's head, also added the right amount of balance to what was going on in the left half.

My initial idea, when working out the compositional idea in sketch form, was to have more texture/movement/sunlit highlights in the distant foliage in the background. But, once I began the work and as I added strength through darks and shadows, it became apparent to me that my initial idea would not work, not only because it would have provided too much 'interest' to the background (which I had wanted to be just some interesting textural addition to the composition) but that it would also have thrown off the right/left balance if I had done what I had thought to do which was to have a lot of sunlit highlights on the leaves to the extreme right.

I like the fact that the 'busy' work is all pretty much on the left of center, while the softer more texturally subtle work counteracts to the right of center. Positioning the figure's right hand as I did also added just the right amount of sharp contrasting interest to the right of the center line and helps to direct the viewer's eye up and to the highlights on the rear horse which, I feel, helps to move one into the work and to begin the journey through it.


Laurene said...

Thanks very much Terry for taking the time to explain!

M.Christine Duncan said...

great composition and principles of design are important to any visual artist... I loved reading your breakdown of Rhinestone Cowgirl. Easy to forget how deliberate and intentional an artist's approach has to be in order for there to be a visual impact. Your images never fail to impact the viewer sir.

AnneW said...

I have heard negative comments from some artists regarding the shine that occurs when using soft pencils to create the darkest darks. Do you find this an issue or not?

Terry Miller said...

Thanks all for the kind remarks about this work.

Anne - yes, there can be a bit of a shine to the darkest areas but I find once I do a light spray of fixative over the drawing, that shine tends to deaden a bit, with the unfortunate side effect of softening those dark areas at the same time, so I usually have to go back in and tweek with a 4B to bring up the darks again. It is just something I have learned to deal with in my work. I would much rather see a bit of a shine to certain areas of a piece which I feel helps to add the needed depth and strength to the work, than to err on the side of being reluctant to use a strong dark as I see so many other artists who work in graphite.

AnneW said...

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me - I appreciate it, and it was very helpful. I'm only on my 4th graphite drawing and haven't had anything framed either to see what difference that makes.

I feel much the same about watercolour artists whose work involves more water than colour! If a bit of shine is good enough for you, it's certainly good enough for me!

I'll be looking forward to your next post.

Kathryn Hansen said...

that was a very interesting examination of your process!! wonderful piece...one of my favorites!