- Sailing a felucca down the Nile River
Apr 05 2016
- Music Inspirations: Sunday Morning
Mar 13 2016
- Journal Entry: Venice
Jan 10 2016
- Poem 4
Nov 01 2015
- Poem 3
Oct 24 2015
- Poem 2
Sep 17 2015
- Poem 1
Aug 10 2015
- Journal Entry: Train ride to Scotland
Jun 13 2015
- Japanese prints
Nov 23 2014
- a note about inspiration
Aug 02 2014
- Creating Deliberate Art: Choosing a Medium
Dec 07 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Introduction
May 30 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Compositional Elements
Apr 24 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Unifying Theme
Mar 17 2015
- Creating Deliberate Art: Capturing the Inspiration
Feb 10 2015
- Technique: pierced metal
Dec 30 2014
- a note about process
Sep 09 2014
- Venice, June 2000: Masquerade of Intimate Affection
Feb 24 2016
- Like a Fly
Dec 29 2015
- Art Nouveau Necklace
Jul 03 2015
- African Padauk Wood
Jan 06 2015
- Castle by the Sea
Oct 16 2014
Creating Deliberate Art: Compositional Elements
In the previous steps outlining how to create deliberate art, I described the process I go through to Capture the Inspiration and choose a Unifying Theme. Now it is time to structure how the piece will be composed.
This step, and step 4: Choosing Medium, are interchangeable. Most artists stick to one medium, and step 4 doesn’t require any additional thought. However, if you work with more than one medium, or are a mixed media artist, you need to decide which medium best portrays your concept. It is best to start by composing the piece and giving it structure, so that you know that your medium can follow the form of that structure. Alternately, if the medium is a part of the inspiration (you are inspired by the varied grain of hardwood, for example) you may want to look at that step first. However, this is not my recommendation, because you can pigeon-hole yourself into the obvious. A great example is the artist Deborah Butterfield who is inspired by driftwood, but uses cast bronze and patinas to create the impression of this material in her work.
First and foremost, look again at your Vision Statement. This is the main emphasis, so the composition needs to revolve around it. When thinking about composition, understand that it is the vehicle that drives your audience on the journey of discovering your piece. You will not know, and cannot control, the emotions of the audience when first exposed to the piece, but your hope is that their journey of exploring the piece will lead them to the destination of your Vision Statement.
The human brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. The standard time for someone to view a piece in a gallery is 8 seconds. Therefore, it is crucial to draw in the attention of the audience right away. Once you have drawn their attention, exploration can begin. However, do not be discouraged by those who speed by with a single glance. The brain continues to process the information long after the eye has moved on to something else. I can say from my own experience that there are many times I have done a quick tour of an exhibition, or was flipping through a book, and then a few minutes later, or days, or even years afterwards, something, something, urged me to go back and investigate the piece further. This is because there was something in the composition that hooked me with the initial glance.
When choosing which elements of composition to use, you want to break down the ideas you wrote on your scratch paper that helped generate your Vision Statement. Breaking down your ideas into compositional elements gives them substance, something the audience can grasp hold of and associate with the concepts you wish to portray. Some of these elements or ideas will be an initial hook, while others are for prolonged discovery and exploration.
I have created the following list, which I use myself. It is based on the formal principles of design, but I have added to them and categorized them in the way that makes sense to me. It is by no means complete or concrete, feel free to add, subtract or alter them for your own use. This is mainly a way to brainstorm the concepts that encompass your inspiration to help get the wheels turning, and help your brain gather the elements of composition that you will use both to hook, and to hold, your audience’s attention.
VISUAL CONTRAST: This the obvious information that your audience will see when first exposed to the piece.
Light/Dark. Large/Small. Hard/Soft. Smooth/Textured. Simple/Complex. Organic/Geometric. Dimensional/Flat.
COLOR is also part of the initial experience. I highly recommend detailed research of color and how it effects the human brain, as well as the specific ideas, feelings, and objects that are associated with individual colors.
LIGHT SOURCE is an obvious, yet often overlooked, way to set the mood for a piece right away. Creation of stark contrast, shadows, and brightness will set the tone for the other elements within the piece.
BALANCE: This is the general layout of the piece. These elements should be looked at from two angles. The first is the elements within the piece itself and how they are arranged in the area that the piece occupies. The second is the relationship between the audience and the artwork, or how the piece will be presented, and the perspective from which the audience views it.
Horizontal/Vertical. Central/Peripheral. Symmetrical/Asymmetrical. Foreground/Background. Aerial/Ground-level.
PERSPECTIVE also guides the balance of the piece, making it stable (or not), and realistic (or not).
MOTION: These elements form the energy of the piece. They also guide how the eye travels through the objects and ideas presented.
Passion/Apathy. Action/Stillness. Entrance/Exit. Path/Space. Repetition/Variation.
LINE falls into this category as well. The human eye will naturally follow the path of a line. Broaden your mind about what forms a line, beyond just the traditional black slash. Any time there is a change in color, contrast, material, or orientation, a line is created that divides that change.
PATTERN is also created any time there is repetition. Because the brain understands things by association, any time there is two like elements within a piece the mind will naturally group them together. This can be used to simulate movement as the eye moves throughout the piece to associate these objects. This can also be used to create a feeling of stillness or inaction if the pattern is consolidated to one area of the piece; the eye will be drawn to and stay there as it groups the pattern together.
RELATIONSHIP & ORGANIZATION: This is how the objects and ideas communicate to each other within the piece, and within human culture. These elements are linked very closely with emotion. Along with naturally grouping objects together, and associating them with life experience, the human brain will naturally give human feelings to inhumane objects because this is how we understand the world from our own experience.
Near/Far. Proximity/Isolation. Separation/Interpenetration. Unity/Disparity. Similar/Dissimilar. Superiority/Inferiority. Complete/Incomplete. Substantial/Insubstantial. New/Old. Masculine/Feminine.
ARTISTIC EXPRESSION: These elements are the wild cards in your piece. This is where you choose (or not) to put a little bit of a twist on things. The artist is not bound by the scientific rules of reality and can bend them to his/her will. However, a word of caution, as this can quickly turn down a slippery slope when the artist gets too wrapped up in being ‘different’ ‘out-there’ and ‘unique’. The Vision Statement then becomes secondary to the shock factor. If your Vision Statement has an element of shock, then great, use these elements to emulate that. If it doesn’t, then restrain these elements within the confines of what the ideas in the Vision Statement allows. You want to draw your audience into feeling something precise and intense, that is the goal of deliberate art. Again, if going through this step gives you further inspiration, great! Write it down and use it later, or scratch the original idea and go back to Step 1. Just remember that when making deliberate art, form always follows purpose.
Real/Artificial. Literal/Abstract. Clarity/Confusion. Chaos/Control. Simplification/Detail. Exaggerated/Moderate. Destroyed/Reconstructed.
Looking at your Vision Statement first and foremost, then the Inspirational Details and Emotive Qualities that helped to compose the Vision Statement, decide which of these elements will guide the audience on their journey to understanding the piece of art. Don’t speed through this step. This is where you make the hard decisions, and remember, good decisions leads to good art; bad decisions, well, you get the idea. Take your time and look at each element in turn. Ask yourself if it applies to the piece you are creating. If it does, even remotely, write it down on your scratch paper. Most of these elements will be involved in one way or another, so it may be a long list. The important thing is that you recognize how and why it may be involved, so that you can calculate the impact it may have on the final presentation of the art. After you have your list, go back and look through your elements and determine which ones are obvious and which ones aren’t. Sometimes it is interesting to downplay the easy choices and highlight the hard ones. Go back to your Vision Statement. Which of these will promote the feeling you are trying to create? These should be circled as the driving elements of the piece. Ideally you want between 5 – 10 of these elements emphasized in your piece to give it a level of advanced complexity. Also, make a note which elements you will use as the ‘hook’ to draw the initial interest of your audience’s attention.