Creating a Pleasing Composition

Designing or creating the composition of your art work is very important in order to end up with a pleasing result. I have been painting for many years, and I find myself doing much of the composing as I take photographs of the subject matter I want to paint. Sometimes I do not consciously think about it. Other times I find myself deliberately taking photos from many different angles hoping that a good composition will result.

The term “composition” is defined by in the area of fine art as the organization or grouping of the different parts of a work of art so as to achieve a unified whole. The art text book  ART TALK by Rosalind Ragans defines composition as the way the principles of design are used to organize the elements of art.

This article could get really complicated. So much to discuss. But, that is not my goal. So, what do I want to accomplish? First, I want to give you some examples of photographs. Then, I want to give you some ideas that might be used in changing the arrangement of the subject matter in the picture to create a more pleasing composition.

Here goes:

Photograph One: You can change the design of your work just by getting a little closer to the subject. In this photograph of fall leaves I give you two examples. One is further away with a lot of empty space at the bottom of the picture. You can crop the empty space to create a different look. Using photo editing software can make creating your composition much easier.

Fall leaves

Fall Leaves from a Distance

fall leaves

Fall Leaves a Little Closer

Photograph Two: In the following photographs you can a beautiful Oregon stream I photographed in the fall. When you compose your art work think about why you want to paint the scene. Ask yourself what drew you to the subject. For me, I was drawn to the fall colors and the movement of the stream. The first photo captures everything. It is a nice shot but the area in the left foreground is not of interest to me at all. I want to eliminate that area and also play up the curve in the stream. I don’t like the way the water ends almost at the left corner of the picture.

Oregon Stream

Oregon Stream

So, I cropped the photo a little.  I like this better, but I still want to play up the fall color a little more.

oregon stream

A Little Closer

I cropped some more. I placed the colorful trees in one of the golden areas. Don’t know what a golden area is? Click here. This time the fall color really comes into play. I have completely lost my sky in this photo. So, if you wanted sky you would need to do something else. As I cropped this photo I realized there is a trash can lid or something in the water. So, that would be left out. Something else I might do is play up the boulders in the foreground of the stream. I think when I draw this on my watercolor paper I will draw the ones from the picture above.

Oregon Stream

Even Closer

Photograph Three: In this photograph the composition is confused by all the extras. We don’t need to have so much of the tractor in the scene. The subject or focus is my grandson, Isaac. Isaac is dead center too. I want to move him over a little one way or the other. Remember, golden areas. I also want to leave enough of the tractor to let the viewer know what he is doing or where he is. There is a metal bar behind Isaac’s head. I would eliminate that in the painting. I probably would eliminate the trees and fence line behind him also. Could make the background out of focus.

child on tractor

Isaac on a Tractor

isaac on tractor

Better Composition

Well, I hope this article helps. There are so many factors involved in creating a pleasing composition. I will continue to write articles about composition on this blog. I would appreciate it if you would leave me a comment. Have a great week!

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