Well, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.” Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle. This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework. Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor. I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes. A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site. Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register (501- 851-4344). I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.
I spent two weeks painting these six “word portraits” to take with me to the Delta Arts Festival in Newport last week, and not a one sold! Guess I thought others would like the words of scripture displayed in their house. I was inspired by my priest’s chasuble he wears Sundays in ordinary time. It says “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” across the front. At any rate, here are the images — the acrylic paintings are 11 x 14″ and I’ll sell any of them for $25. The embellishments are symbolic – at least to me! Might make nice gifts — who knows! Comment if you like them, please
Draw a rectangle 8″ high and 10″ wide in the middle of your large drawing pad. Draw your eye level a little above center so that you will have a lot of floor to play with.
Set your left and right vanishing points.
Close to the middle of your rectangle, draw a vertical line about 2″ long — this will be the corner of your room.
To draw the ceiling, connect a line from the top of that corner to the left vanishing point and a line to the right vanishing point.
To draw the floor, connect a line from the bottom of the corner to the left vanishing point and another to the right vanishing point. Do you see the floor and the ceiling now?
On one wall, draw a window and make sure your tops and bottoms are parallel — use the vanishing points. Draw the window casing as well, if you can. If you want, you may draw a door in the other wall as well.
To draw the floor tiles in 2-point perspective, measure off 1″ marks on the floor line from the corner of the room along the wall. Do this on both walls. You will have to extend your floor lines all the way off the paper in order to make all the tiles.
From each of those points on the floor line, draw converging lines to the vanishing points. If you do this on both walls, you will have tiles that grow smaller and smaller as they go back in space. You can darken every other one of these so that you can see the pattern.
I know this is difficult — I hope you understood my directions. Please let me know if I need to explain it further. We’ll draw a house in a landscape for the next lesson in perspective.
HERE’S AN EXERCISE YOU CAN TRY TO UNDERSTAND 1 POINT PERSPECTIVE INSIDE A BUILDING.
INTERIOR SCENES ARE MUCH DIFFERENT FROM EXTERIOR. PRETEND THAT YOU’RE IN A SMALL ROOM LOOKING AT THE BACK WALL –THERE IS EITHER A WINDOW OR A PAINTING ON THAT WALL, AND IT IS SEEN HEAD-ON. IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK, DRAW AN 8″ SQUARE IN THE CENTER OF THE PAPER. THEN DRAW A 4″ SQUARE EQUI-DISTANT FROM ALL SIDES WITHIN THE 8″ SQUARE. PRETEND THIS IS THE BACK WALL OF YOUR ROOM. DECIDE WHERE YOUR EYE LEVEL IS AND DRAW A HORIZONTAL LINE INTERSECTING BOTH SQUARES. SELECT A VANISHING POINT ON YOUR HORIZON LINE. NOW DRAW CONVERGING LINES FROM THAT VP TO THE CORNERS OF THE BACK WALL (NOT THE CORNERS OF THE SQUARE – NOTICE). DRAW DOORS, WINDOWS WITH CONVERGING LINES THAT MEET AT THE VANISHING POINT. NOTICE THAT YOU CAN ONLY SEE THE FRAMING OF WINDOWS/DOORS ON THE BACK SIDE.
TO DO THE TILE FLOOR MEASURE OFF 1/2″ DIVISIONS ON THE BACK WALL EXTENDING BEYOND YOUR SQUARES IF YOU CAN. DRAW CONVERGING LINES TO THE VP FROM THESE POINTS. THIS GIVES YOU THE ANGLES OF BOARDS OR TILES PERPENDICULAR TO THE SIDE WALLS. NOW, IF YOU WANT SQUARE TILES, START AT THE BASE OF YOUR PICTURE PLANE (THE 8″ SQUARE) AND MEASURE OFF 1″ UP AND DRAW YOUR FIRST HORIZONTAL LINE (THIS IS CALLED A TRANSVERSAL).
NOW, CONTINUE TO DRAW DIAGONALS ACROSS THE FLOOR FROM THE INTERSECTIONS OF THE CONVERGING LINES. CONTINUE IN THE SAME MANNER TO MAKE CHECKERBOARD TILES. DARKEN ALTERNATE TILES SO THAT YOU CAN SEE THE PATTERN. ERASE THE LINES YOU NO LONGER NEED.
I REALIZE THIS WILL BE DIFFICULT FROM A WRITTEN EXPLANATION. I USUALLY DEMONSTRATE THIS IN MY CLASSES, AND STUDENTS FOLLOW ALONG AS I DRAW. LET ME KNOW IF YOU CATCH ON TO THIS OR NOT. A TWO-POINT INTERIOR SCENE IS NEXT!
In this abstracted 16 x 16″ landscape, I was trying to use one of the six basic value schemes mentioned by Edgar Whitney. The scheme was a little dark with a lot of light in medium values. I seldom use this value scheme; that’s why I wanted to try it. I also wanted to continue breaking up the picture plane into sections, but still be able to lead the eye movement to the center of interest (the barn in the upper right area). As usual, I worked out the value and color scheme in my sketchbook and decided to use a split-complementary color scheme: blue, red orange, orange, and yellow orange. The acrylic colors I used were Cadmium Orange, Hansa Yellow, Indian Yellow, Thalo Blue, Prussian Blue, Raw sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cadium Red Light and Titanium White. (At least, that’s what I think I used — hard to remember now!)
Here’s a new painting — an experiment, if you will. This is acrylic on 16 x 16″ clayboard panel. First, I worked out the design in my sketchbook although the inserted images changed as I painted on the panel. Clayboard is not like canvas; I learned that I had to use several layers of acrylic to get the texture I desired. I remembered that Terrance Corbin used to divide up his surface into smaller sections, and I love doing that! Guess I’m an organizer at heart! At any rate, I tried to vary the sizes of the segments and still have a way that the viewer could get through the entire piece. That was done by the narrow pieces running through and the color repetitions. I used only blue, yellow, orange, and green with some white, mixing the neutrals from these colors. it was a lot of fun!
What do you think?
A good way to plan a composition is to use recognizable color schemes. Each color scheme has its own appeal and mood. As I wrote about previously, complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary color schemes can be pretty chaotic unless one color is used as a predominant, and the other is subordinate. I used a simple composition in the following watercolor studies (5 x 7″) to show how value, intensity, dominant and subordinate color affects the mood.
I used blue as the dominant hue in this first small study in values from light to dark. The complement, orange, was used as an accent. The study seems to suggest evening with some light from the sinking sun.
I reversed the colors in this second small study, using orange as the dominant and blue as the subordinate colors. The oranges are used in a variety of values from light to dark, and the accent of blue is used both dark and light in the foreground grasses and in the tree trunks. A little blue can also be found in the texture of the barn. Do you see the difference in the mood?
Look at this number sequence: 1,3,5,7,9,11 – what number should be next? 13 of course. What about this sequence? 3,6,12,24? The answer is 48. Now take a look at this one: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 — what number comes next? If you said 34 – you’d be right! You had to add the last two numbers to get the next – and so forth.
This last is called the Fibonacci sequence after its discoverer — Leonardo of Pisa known as Fibonacci (son of Bonacci) who wrote a book about math in 1202 in which he was trying to determine how fast rabbits could breed. He was educated in North Africa and learned his mathematical system from the Moors. He helped Europe replace the Roman numeral system with the “algorithms” that we use today.
It has been found that this number sequence corresponds closely with the golden mean or section: if you divide each number by the number before it, your results get closer and closer to Phi (1/66, 1/62, 1/615, 1/619, 1/6176, 1/6181818 etc). This sequence is found in nature – in the spirals of flower petals, seed heads, pine cones, vegetables, leaf arrangements, nautilus shells, even the human body and face. The French architect LeCorbusier thought that the human body when measured from foot to stomach and then again from stomach to top of the head was very close to the Golden Mean. Even the span of the arms and legs adhere to this proportion. Dentists and oral surgeons use the proportion because the relative sizes of the jaws and teeth conform to the ratio. The proportional ratio of the upper lateral incisors to the upper front incisors is 1:1.618! Some believe that the more closely a woman’s face conforms to the ratio, the more beautiful she’ll look. Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man depicts where he marked off proportions according to the phi progression.
Take a look at these images from nature. Do you see where the spiral starts in the middle and progresses outward, enlarging proportionally until the sequence is completed? More on this as it applies to the arts later!
Check out how many examples of Fibonacci numbers you can see in nature — look at broccoli, cauliflower, a pine cone, etc. Remember, though, that everything does not correspond.
One of my strongest concerns in making a painting is CONTRAST. Contrast can be achieved in many different ways:
1. CONTRAST OF VALUE: This is the opposition between white and black and their immediate gradations when mixed with various colors. If a painting or drawing has high value contrast, it pr0bably has at least 6 different variations from light to dark. Strong light or sunlight makes for a wide range of contrast, while cloudy days and diffused light makes for a limited range of contrast.
2. CONTRAST OF HUE: This is the contrast of hues (colors) in the same values against each other. For example, the action of a bright red on a bright green background causes optical effects resulting from the contrast. If a painting has light values,but different hues, it is said to be high key. If it has dark values, but different hues, it is said to be low key.
3. CONTRAST OF INTENSITY: This is the contrast of a clean color against a dirty one, or intense color against neutral. A little bit of color at its maximum intensity (strength) against a grayed down hue produces a very effective type of harmony.
4. CONTRAST OF TRANSPARENCY: Color can be transparent like colored glass, semi-transparent like cloudy glass, or opaque like a thick layer of house paint. Transparent color like the stained glass of a cathedral, is the most powerful of all. In the same way, transparent paint is more powerful than an opaque passage. This works best in watercolor, of course.
5. CONTRAST OF TEMPERATURE: Consciously or unconsciously, we are aware some colors are warm (red, yellow, and orange) while others are cold (blue, green). A single hue may vary in temperature: a purplish blue is warmer than a greenish blue, and a purplish red is cooler than an orange red. To identify whether a hue is warm or cool, think about how much red or blue is in it. Warm colors have certain emotional overtones that differ from the emotions evoked by cool colors, so use thus principle when you are seeking to imply a certain mood.
6. CONTRAST OF COMPLEMENTS: Colors which are diametrically opposite one another on the color wheel are called complementaries, and they have the power to bring out the maximum effectiveness of their opposites when placed side by side. Thus, yellow will emphasize an adjacent purple; red reinforces a nearby green, etc. The remarkable fact about complementaries is that the nerves in the eye will create an illusion of the opposite color. Therefore, a bright patch of red will seem to suffuse the surrounding area with green.
Here are some design patterns that I have sometimes used in composing my paintings. I found these examples in an art magazine a few years ago and made a copy of them in my sketchbook. As Harley Brown writes in his book, Harley Brown’s Eternal Truths for Every Artist, ” Composition, not content, grabs your attention.”
The cruciform pattern is one that is used most effectively in non-objective compositions, and the strata, high and low horizons, S curve, mass, diagonals and L shapes work really well in landscapes. Why not make a copy of these in your sketchbook, and start using some of these in planning your compositions? You’ll soon notice how much better they are.