Wednesday, 1 May 2013

How to draw a composition

How to draw a striking composition in 10 easy steps

What is a composition?  A composition refers to the basic format in which you arrange, organize and combine your objects within the border of your drawing space.

Charcoal drawingA strong composition can be very intangible.  If the composition of a drawing is done well, it can give the audience a certain feeling, convey a certain mood and tell a specific story.  It isn't the center of attention and can pass by almost unnoticed.  But if a composition is done badly for example all the objects are place in the middle, it can feel awkward to the viewer.  As you practice these 10 tips or important elements, it will become a natural instinct to use them and you will be creating perfect compositions like a master.

1.  The focal point

How do you choose a focal point to draw?  The focal point is the primary interest in your drawing or the object you can use as the focus.  It is crucial to pick a good subject for your drawing.  Pick something that is visually interesting with nice negative spaces and some detail.  Make sure you have a good light source from one direction.  Use the rule of thirds to place your focal point in on an interesting spot that will draw the viewer’s eye to it.  Then check the other elements in your drawing to see if that spot works for your focal point, otherwise you should play around with it more.

2.  Use a viewfinder

Use a viewfinder to isolate your key elements in a scene and check their placement.  You can use this little handy tool to create your own-cropped scene.  Sometimes an artist doesn’t realize the powerfulness of the four lines created by the edge of the canvas or paper.  You can cut your page to the correct width and height for enhanced practicality.  Think about the shape of this paper or canvas before starting a drawing.  For example if you want to draw a skyscraper, you might want to draw on a rectangle shaped page.

3.  Make use of navigational tools 

You can use lines as navigational elements in your drawing that lead the viewers eye to different elements in the drawing.  For example you can draw a piece of string as a secondary element that enters from outside the frame and leads to your focal point.  This piece of string functions as a navigational tool.

4.  Ensure you have enough contrast and varied tonal values

Your drawing consists out of dark and light tones but ensure that you use the whole tonal spectrum.  Use strong contrasts between white and black and then grey tones in between.  You want your values to be quite different from each other in different amounts.  You can try the "two thirds, one third and a little bit" rule.  As an example you can use two thirds in dark tones, one-third light tones and a small area or object that is a mid-tone.

5.  How many elements should you have in your composition?

Use odd numbers rather than even numbers.

6.  Use negative space between elements or objects

Positive space is any object or form that stands out from the background and the eye can register as being something.  The negative space is the space around the objects or the background.  In other words the negative space is all the space not taken up by important objects, focal point or other areas of interest.  
It is often suggested to use equal amounts of positive and negative space in a drawing.  If there is too much positive space, it can become too crowded.  On the other hand if there is too much negative space, it can become empty and lonely.  The negative space thus contributes to the feeling you would like to convey or to draw the eye to a specific element.  For example, you can use more negative space if you want to focus more attention on a specific element.

7.  No kissing of elements

Kissing in this context means for the elements to touch.  They must either be definitely apart or definitely overlapping.  Overlapping separates your drawing area into a foreground, middle ground and then a background.  Kissing just creates a weak connected shape and can distract the viewer’s eye and causing them to pause so they can puzzle it out.  Overlapping is a great technique to create distance and depth in your artwork.

8.  Balance and proportion

If you center your subjects horizontally and vertically, you can achieve a great sense of balance but it is expected by the viewer and can end up being a bit boring.  Balance is a stable arrangement of subjects in a composition.  You can achieve balance through varying your proportions, spaces between objects; vary the angles they lie at and their sizes.  This will make the drawing much more interesting.

9.  Unity

The elements in your drawing should somehow relate to each other.  Otherwise they just look like a bunch of stuff throw together.

10.  Variety in composition layout

Don't be scared to experiment with different composition layouts.  Don't get stuck in doing the same kind of composition layout every time.  You can vary where you put your horizon line, the focal point or swap between landscape and portrait format.

If you implement these 10 rules of composition in your artwork, you will instantly see a difference in the effectiveness of your artwork.  Eventually as you practice and experiment they will come to you naturally with no effort.

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