Updated: Aug 4
Composition and , of course, many other terms are the foundation of every artwork, and sometimes you forget that during a painting session. Even if you have been painting and/or drawing for years, it's good to occasionally take a close look at an 'old' work and question whether the composition is compelling enough. Some pieces turn out to be much more interesting than others. This article highlights a few points about the theme of composition. To illustrate, I went plein-air landscape painting demonstration in the polder, in the area of Bunschoten-Spakenburg.
THE RULE OF THIRDS
The surface is divided into nine (equal) parts. The essential elements of the composition are placed along these lines or at the intersections. It prevents the focal point of the composition from being in the center of the surface, where your eyes might linger. On the other hand, placing it at one of the four intersections, as shown in photo 1, makes it much more intriguing; your eyes follow these points, creating liveliness. The horizon is positioned along the first or second line. Experiment with this technique.
CREATING MOVEMENT THROUGH LINES
Depth and movement can be suggested through the use of lines. It is essential to incorporate lines throughout the composition. These lines can range from literal ones, such as a road or a ditch, to the lines formed by pieces of land or the contours of hills – basically, anything that guides the viewer's gaze through the landscape. In photo 2, I deliberately chose the road and the ditch to serve this purpose.
SYMMETRY OR ASYMMETRY
A symmetrical composition (equal on both sides) generally feels calming, while asymmetry (unequal on both sides) creates a more dynamic feel. This can be achieved by placing objects off-center or using different sizes and shapes for elements in the painting. When everything is perfectly symmetrical, it can become static and dull. A non-centered composition can add interest and movement to a painting.
Colors with higher intensity come forward compared to colors with soft edges that recede in space. Dark objects can appear to recede if their edges are softer, while dark objects with sharp edges come forward. As objects recede into the distance, their color becomes grayer, with a decrease in color saturation. Therefore, the green at the horizon is different from the green in the foreground. This is known as atmospheric perspective.
Light plays a crucial role in a landscape painting. Where does the light come from? Which areas receive accents, and which do not? In my landscapes, I often add a light accent in the sky on the upper right side to strengthen the composition's movement and an accent somewhere in the landscape, to the left of the center. In this photo, you can see this in the bend of the road. Try it out for yourself!
The foreground should not be empty, as if there is nothing interesting happening there. Use color and texture, for example, through your brushwork, to make the foreground captivating. However, be mindful not to make it the sole focus (see step 1). In the foreground of this painting, I used a coarse and thick brushstroke to create interest without stealing all the attention.
The painting must be balanced; it should feel "right," with neither side heavier than the other. Place your painting, take a few steps back, and observe it with the above points in mind.