Friday, June 19, 2015

Composition of Outdoor Painting || Chapter 2, Part 1

Thumbnail Value Rough of Idea for CGMA Lost Civilizations Contest by Mary Highstreet
Thumbnail Value Rough of Idea for CGMA Lost Civilizations Contest by Mary Highstreet

We are currently reading,
"Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne
(Go HERE for the full reading plan.)

Chapter 2 (Part 1)
(pp. 27-78)

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This chapter is all about how to create good design when composing a picture.  Very straight forward, Edgar Payne presents an abundance of ideas for composing various scenarios and subject matters.

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Summary of Main Points:

1a.  Always consider the main elements or masses (including the focal point) and keep those at the forefront of the design.

1b.  Unique artistic quality and individuality in art is equally important to good design.

3.  "Deciding the unequal quantity or measure of masses, spaces, color, values, and their placement, establishing horizon and other main lines and creating artistic equalization in perspective or recession are the chief principals of full balance in all directions" (p. 39).

4.  Sketching a scene multiple times, daily, is essential to build both knowledge, confidence, and skill.

5.  The aim of composition is to create unity.

6-9.  When selecting any subject for painting, a prior knowledge of forms and features must be mastered by frequent and careful study and observation.

8.  "By shadowing the ground, placing the horizon or land contours low and keeping the proportions unequal are the main postulates in cloud compositions" (p. 56).

10.  The focal point requires the main attention and consideration from the artist and of all parts of the painting for any composition.

11.  Drawing should include artistic qualities and not be an exact representation of nature.

12.  There are four main styles of drawing and design:  Mass Principal (large ideas considered first), Decorative Approach (details and color predominating), Linear Design (emphasis on line work), and Perspective (drawing and painting in three dimensions).

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More Details:

A.  Selection and Composition

1.  Selection

Selection covers choosing what visuals to include in your painting.  Good selection is needed in choosing the subject matter and is essential during the beginning processes all the way through the end stages of the painting.  The attention and treatment of detail in a painting should never overpower or push aside the main design.  The main design should always be at the forefront of the painters mind for all compositions.  When making judgements on what to include or what to leave out, "the main masses or larger interest should require little or not alteration, with only the less important items being altered, rejected, or introduced" (p. 34).  In terms of design, whatever is chosen to be the main feature all other parts of the design should yield dominance.

Art is always an interpretation of nature, "...everyone must put something of himself into his work.  While nature furnishes the visual motive, art comes from the depictor" (p. 32).  Making a work "artistic" is found in the artists unique brushwork.  The main design determines the larger picture, but the details reveal personality, charm, and individuality.

2.  The View Finder

Use a view finder to select the best composition, especially when there are many objects or "motives" to be considered.  It helps to select the main masses and find unity.  Using a large mirror opposite the canvas gives the artist a refreshed view and also aids in making sure unity is being achieved.  Other judging unification are minimizing the work, reversing it, viewing it sideways or upside down.

3.  Balance

Balance is achieved by using two or more large value areas and by balancing "color, line, breadth and detail, and the influence of abstract factors or principals" (p. 36).  The first consideration of balance should be the placement of the horizon line, main lines, masses, spaces and light/dark areas.  "...each area [should have] variety and interest which does not interfere with the main design" (p. 37).  Masses can be placed virtually anywhere as long as they support the main design, create balance and unity.

One tool to aid composition can be to draw two straight lines: one vertically and one horizontally in the center of the canvas, this helps to avoid the dead spots (where the lines are and converge).  Repetition of color throughout the design also aids balance.  Balance is also needed in perspective, "full pictorial unity depends on an equilibrium in three dimensions" (p. 38).

Edgar Payne says even the most accomplished of artists make mistakes and that discouragement is normal, so beginners shouldn't feel bad or be overwhelmed by these two things.

4.  Preliminary Sketches

Record/sketch your artistic ideas and visions immediately since they are often temporary and fleeting.  Compositions should be considered and drawn in a multitude of pencil drawn variations, with a variety of design.  Drawing accomplishes three things: problem solving, artistic mental exercise, and developing skill with the hand.  Mileage (a minimum of 1-2 sketches per day) in pencil drawing will build knowledge and facilitate drawing the same subjects in the future.  The more preliminary work done, the less will be needed later in the painting process.  Sketches should be done both from observation and from the imagination.  The benefit to drawing a the same subject multiple times is an increase of knowledge about the subject and the ability resolve unity in composition.  Initial studies create familiarity with the subject and allow the painter to be more confident in painting the final version.

5.  Composition

The aim of composition is to create unity.  One feature is the main interest that dominates all others.

"If through carelessness or lack of knowledge or practice, important factors have been ignored, the feeling of unity or balance is destroyed, the work is inevitably doomed to mediocrity" (p. 44).

Artists must have a first plan, by thorough planning and preliminary notes of main structures, if the final painting is to be a success.  Some common problems encountered are:  the horizon is too centered, a vertical edge or line divides the canvas in half, two points of interest, several equal masses, or spaces.  In composition, the idea is to arrive at a finished work quickly with a feeling that at anytime in the process it can be called done.  "There is always a place to stop painting.  This is the point where maximum quality has been achieved" (p. 46).

"If one has the knowledge, ability and experience, he can change or remove a tree, invent a path or road, or alter any of the innumerable items without the change of addition being obvious, or artistic quality lessened" (p. 48).

6.  Hills and Mountains

Hills and mountains deserve careful study of characteristic forms and features, much like in the study of the figure.  The qualities to be present when painting hills and mountains are mostly invisible: nobility, height and grandeur.

7.  Trees

Trees are expressed in ideas of beauty and rhythm and depiction requires a sound knowledge of form.  To avoid a boring or overly repetitious arrangement, the location of trees must appear casual.

8.  Clouds and Marines

Clouds and marines are the most challenging to draw and paint, of all subjects.  This has largely to do with the fact that they are fluid and constantly changing.  When painting clouds and marines you must draw from your memory.  "Therefore, the main characteristics of these two motives have to be firmly established in the mind...the student [must] learn typical forms of clouds or sea" (p. 54).

With clouds the horizon is typically placed low, the next consideration is the ratio of clouds to sky.  Never divide the two parts equally, 2/3 is a good proportion although exceptions can be made.  Cloud shadows cast on the ground can be positioned anywhere to aid unity.

Some focal points of marines might be:  breaking waves, spray, cliffs or headlands, partly submerged rocks, foam on top of boiling water, the surf hitting the beach, spray lightened by sunlight, light on a rock or headland, patterns within form, or whatever appeals to the artist.  A warm wash either of burnt sienna or other reddish earth colors is considered a good underpainting for marines.  A warm foundation creates vibration, depth, unification and balance of warm to cool.

9.  Boats

The mobility of boats makes them easily placed in the picture plane to support the composition.  Some challenges here could be the variation in sale shape and movement and their reflections in the water.

10.  Main Interest in the Composition

The main interest must always be considered first.  It's placement is important, as well as the necessity of other parts to not overshadow or overpower it.  The focal point should never be placed too near the edge or it may cause abruptness and lead the eye out of the picture.  Figures and animals should be integrated seamlessly into the design, usually facing the center or focal point to lead the eye back into the picture toward the main interest.

11.  Drawing

If art was merely an exact copy of nature, the camera could replace it.  The camera is precise but not artistic.  "The inaccuracy resulting from artistic leeway, esthetic taste and judgement is what determines quality in drawing in fine art" (p. 62).  Payne explains four main styles of drawing which are expounded on below.

12.  Mass Principal

Broad impressionistic drawing design that focuses on the main points of interest or large masses.  Artists must think in large masses and achieve quality from a their simple organization.  Squinting the eyes can help to locate large masses and achieve "bigness," main unity, and a relation of all parts.  The mass idea helps to unify the canvas.  It is a simple overall depiction, an abstract representation of the whole, that unifies the minute details of nature.  Think in mass and form, not lines, which must be disguised.  Early drawing of composition and mass can be kept light to avoid outlining objects too heavily.

13.  Decorative Approach

More of a flat mass design.  A good example of this drawing style is Sir Frank Brangwyn's Murals.

14.  Linear Design

Line is of the utmost importance in this drawing style.  There are three categories of line to be utilized (which symbolize different things):  vertical (height, stability, nobility), horizontal (repose, tranquility) , slanted/curved (movement, activity, rhythm).  Every composition should utilize all three types of lines in order to unify the picture.  Lines create balance and help to guide the eye around the painting.  Unseen lines exist in the spaces between main points of interest: these areas also guide the eye.

15.  Perspective

The perspective approach is the creation of a three dimensional painting as seen in recession/depth to the view as well as a feeling of roundness to forms.  This is accomplished by the use of "atmosphere, graduation of values, contrasts to tone and color, dark and light masses, and linear perspective" (p. 70).  First artists place the horizon (eye level determined by the station point of the painter), never to be placed exact center.  In landscape painting, horizons are typically placed low and Edgar Payne suggests 1/3 or 3/5 devision of the canvas, he also gives examples of where to place the horizon for panoramic views at high elevations and views that do not contain man made structures (p. 71).  This type of composition allows the viewer's eye to travel in three dimensions: near and far, as well as horizontally and vertically.  Shadows and texture (less detail in the background) should also be considered in the adding of depth/perspective.

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