When I first started out drawing and painting, I was so interested in getting to the painting part that I didn’t really give much thought as to why I was painting a particular subject or what I was trying to portray. I didn’t think about having a focal point or how the eye would move throughout the composition.
Many of my paintings were nice but I new they could use some improvement. I found that if I wanted to have a composition that worked; I needed to plan a little in advance. I needed to really perceive the subject matter and figure out how to make it the focal point of the work.
I began searching for information. I wanted to know the rules for creating a perfect composition. I read books, went to workshops, and asked artists how they came up with their compositions. I won’t get into all that I learned. But I will share with you one trick I found that improved my painting and photography.
The trick is very simple. Place your subject in one of the four “golden areas”.
Where are the “golden areas”? You can find the golden areas on your canvas or paper by dividing the height and width of the surface into thirds horizontally and vertically. If you draw lines dividing the surface into thirds; the four “golden areas” would be where the lines intersect.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say we have a piece of drawing paper 12 inches in width and 9 inches in height. If you divided the width into thirds; you would draw vertical lines at 4 inches and 8 inches. If you divided the height of the paper into thirds; you would draw horizontal lines across the paper at 3 inches and 6 inches.
The golden areas of that paper would be where the lines intersected. The four golden areas would be at a point at:
4″ across and 3″ down,
8″ across and 3″ down,
4″ across and 6″ down, and
8″ across and 6″ down.
Refer to the image above if you are need a visual.
With four golden areas you have four places to put the main subject of your work. You don’t need to actually draw the vertical and horizontal lines on your paper. You don’t need to measure. You can approximate.
I take thousands of photographs for reference materials for my paintings. I have found that thinking about the golden areas when I am taking pictures really improves my photographs also. I can compose with the camera. Having better photographs to work with helps when creating a design.
When you begin your next painting or drawing start off by thinking about the placement of your subject in your painting or drawing. Would your composition be improved by placing the subject in one of the four golden areas?