Composition is the first step to any artwork. Composition is the way you, as an artist, visually communicate to your viewers. In this article, you’ll learn what composition is and why it's so important.
Composition is how you organize your pictorial elements on your substrate. This process takes time. A well-composed piece does not happen spontaneously - it is a deliberate process. It requires thoughtful decisions on the placement of your subject matter. The artist has to choose whether the object is cropped or not cropped, large or small, centered or off-centered, how that object is placed in relation to other things.
Classic compositions are typically what first comes to mind when we talk about composition - centered, nothing unusually cropped, and balanced: those are the three ingredients of a classic composition. If you look at art before the 19th century, you’re looking at classic compositions. Classic compositions are great for learning proportions and creating classic-looking paintings.
It wasn’t until the invention of the camera did artists begin to experiment with composition. Check out how our message can change when we crop one of the poses we had during a live model session at the studio.
These few examples can give you an idea of how much fun you can have with only one subject. What's more is that we haven't even done all the compositions you can do with this image, and you still have enough material to do more than half a dozen paintings! If you've ever come to a live model session, and you're not feeling the whole model set up, try to focus on a key point that captures your interest. Maybe it's the models ruffles on her wrists, or her makeup. The message your composition displays can also be a reflection of how you feel. Maybe you want to practice drawing hands, and that's why you chose to crop everything but the hands.
Your composition is an opportunity to talk to the viewer. It's a powerful and often underrated and underappreciated aspect of an artwork, but it's composition that seperates masters from naïve artists.
"A well composed piece is half way finished." -Pierre Bonnard