Monday, 19 September 2016

Composition - putting it all together with care. Student watercolours.

While it may look sometimes that paintings just 'happen' by themselves, the images that we find most pleasing to the eye are those which have been carefully considered and designed by the artist. Unfortunately, in many instances, this vital element in learning to create images is completely ignored. The word used is Composition and without understanding it to some degree, students will prevent their own progress. Without an appreciation of layout and design, the artwork cannot 'sing' and the artist will not have full control of how their artwork is viewed. Composition is just as important for one-off image making as it is for the narrative required in an illustration. 

A cluster of objects looks dauting, until we analyse it 

Good composition engages the viewer and invites them to linger longer. A poor composition feels uncomfortable and won’t encourage the viewer to stay. If you have not considered a picture in terms of ‘feelings’ then now is the time to start. 

Rowan, open and 'clean'
Rose hip - busier-looking because the leaves are broad and overlap.

Students arriving to a table full of berries and leaves is daunting, so in order to begin the task of composing a painting, we took time to consider the make-up of the subject. To do this we looked at individual stems from a variety of plants and noted that the patterns of leaves and berries was very different, and specific to each plant.  Look at the rowan above and notice how the leaves are ‘clean’ and ‘open’, and all come from a small stem off a larger branch. The berries hang in neat clusters at the end, like a hand on the end of an arm. The rose hip is very different. The thick leaves overlap which makes an instant analysis more challenging, but notice how there is great clarity in how the branches are formed - clean prickly stems with one large berry on the end. These observations give us the ‘anatomy’ or ‘design’ of the plant. The act of studying them like this helps us notice design in nature. Now our head is in the right mode! We are thinking about the mechanics of the object, rather than its beauty and understand the way it has been designed.

The students next task was to begin 'thumbnail' pencil sketches to design the layout of their page. They had to include at least two different plants, but the scale did not have to be proportionate. They were allowed only 5 minutes per sketch - this encourages fast thinking, and reduces the layout to the bare bones - in other words, they drew more of the ‘anatomy' of the branches, and were less concerned at this stage with the leaves. If the bare bones work, then it’ll work with the leaves on too! 

Work in progress, which shows lovely use of negative spaces, by student Lorraine L 

Working small allowed them to see how the ‘negative spaces’, the paper which has no drawing on it, are just as important as the drawing itself because the white areas are part of the ‘pattern’ being created. 

Work in progress, a beatiful composition by student Olivia. Rose hips and, under her hand, brambles.
Finally, they chose their favourite composition and drew it onto watercolour paper - partly observing the plant, but remaining totally faithful to their design. This meant that they left out some leaves, but had at all times to observe the anatomy of the plant - how did the stems attach to a larger branch, how does the berry sit with the leaves, etc?  In other words, they designed and created something unique. 
This compostition uses the background to excelent effect, by student Pat F.
You can see from the photos above and below that the result is not something invented, but, rather, designed. 

A triumph of design, by student Hilary J. 

Next up, Belfast workshops for adults in Oil painting, Drawing, Life drawing and Portrait drawing.
Also, occasional children's classes in observation drawing and illustration.

For details email or call 07730 560517.

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