Com­po­si­tion: Myths and Meth­ods

James Gur­ney ex­plains why com­po­si­tion isn’t about forc­ing el­e­ments into a grid

ImagineFX - - Workshops -

The key to com­pos­ing an ef­fec­tive pic­ture is fig­ur­ing out the best way to ex­press your main idea in visual terms. That idea could be a dra­matic clash of char­ac­ters, an emo­tion tied to an en­vi­ron­ment, or a mood cre­ated by a story. I like to be­gin a paint­ing by clar­i­fy­ing the idea and then de­cid­ing which pic­to­rial tools best con­vey it.

The prob­lem with most com­po­si­tional the­ory is that the think­ing is back­wards. In­stead of start­ing with the cen­tral idea, many art teach­ers dwell on shoe­horn­ing the pic­ture into some rigid, pre­con­ceived ge­om­e­try. Some fo­cus on a set of dog­matic no­tions about how the eyes move around a pic­ture. Oth­ers fo­cus on ab­stract de­sign for its own sake, aim­ing for rhythm, flow, bal­ance or har­mony.

But paint­ing is more than de­sign­ing bath­room tiles, pre­sent­ing food on a plate or ar­rang­ing flow­ers in a vase. What’s the use of a pleas­ing, bal­anced ar­range­ment if your story idea de­mands a de­sign that's off-bal­ance or ar­rhyth­mic? Paint­ing is like any other art form: emo­tion and story should come first and they alone should drive the aes­thetic choices.

In this work­shop, I’ll start by roast­ing a cou­ple of sa­cred cows and then I’ll of­fer some prac­ti­cal tips. Who's hun­gry?

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