Thursday, October 21, 2010

(Re) Learning the Basics: Effective Composition

In the fall of 1977, fresh out of high school, I entered a college commercial art curriculum.  Admittedly, my attendance at my evening Art History and Composition classes was somewhat 'spotty'.  I was ill-prepared (that sounds nicer than "too emotionally immature", don't you think?) to take college seriously at that time -- so suffice it to say that I felt I had better things to do than spend evenings in a darkened auditorium viewing and discussing slides.

Since resuming my drawing about five years ago, I have become increasingly aware that I struggle with issues around creating a successful composition.  In other words, I have gradually come to know how much I don't know.  Despite techniques using sketching, cropping, etc., I have difficulty visualizing and objectively analyzing what an image may look like when completed.  Consequently I may be well into a drawing before realizing, "Oops -- that's a problem."  Even then I may have difficulty identifying exactly what the problem is, let alone how to fix it.

My frustration over the 'holes' in my knowledge base will sometimes motivate me to embark on a hunt-and-search mission in the area's larger bookstores.  Occasionally these excursions have resulted in a disappointment; the purchase of a book that I've brought home, only to find it is not as helpful as I'd hoped.  Several weeks ago however, I happened upon the book, "Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting", written by Canadian artist Ian Roberts, and published by North Light Books.  In short, the book addresses the dynamics that make up a successful composition, and how mastering these dynamics will move a viewer's eye effectively through the structure of a painting.  Roberts discusses factors such as contrast, edge control, and color intensity, hue, value, and temperature, to name a few, and the role these play in creating a more powerful image.  The volume is comprehensive and includes numerous practical exercises, as well as an instructional DVD.  Already I have found it to be tremendously helpful, and it is the type of book I can easily return to over and over again for reference.  Though my brief description cannot do the book justice, I felt compelled to share about it for those who may struggle with some of the same issues that I do.

To learn more about Ian Roberts and his work, visit his website at .

And incidentally..........I predict that in the not-too-distant future I will be found enrolled in a couple of art history and composition classes -- continuing to fill the voids left by the skewed priorities of my youth!      : )