Easy composition guidelines to create no-fail paintings.
The composition pulls the viewers in and makes them feel comfortable. They will find pleasure or interest in looking at your paintings.
Artists don't have to copy nature or photographs. We have an artistic license to arrange the elements in our paintings to make them pleasing to the viewers.
Good composition helps your viewers enjoy your paintings.
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The rule of thirds is the easiest and simplest way to compose pleasing paintings.
Divide your painting surface into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Draw two lines up and down and across your painting surface.
This gives you nine equal spaces. This works when your painting is oriented either horizontal or vertical.
Place your focal point, the center of interest at one of the intersections.
You may use any intersection, left, right, top or bottom.
See the example of my Scrub Jay painting at the right. He is located on the intersection of the third lines.
The viewer's eye is drawn into the painting and can freely move out around the rest of the painting.
The focal point is never in the center of the painting. This is easy composition.
If the focal point is dead center in the middle of the painting, it is like diving into a deep hole. It is hard for the viewer's eye to move to other areas in the painting.
The Rule of Center Lines is a second method of easy composition.
Don't put the main subject of your painting on the center lines either horizontally or vertically.
Place any main objects to the left or right of the vertical center line and above or below the horizontal line.
If you put a main object or the horizon on the center line, it cuts the painting right in half.
The Oyster Catcher in the painting at the right is dead-centered in the middle of the painting.
Also, the centered horizon cuts the painting in half.
Then the viewer sees two paintings instead of one cohesive painting. They feel uncomfortable and don't know where to look.
These two mistakes make a very poor composition.
Easy composition is always placing the horizon above or below the center. Also, don't put your main subject in the very center of the painting.
After you position the main subjects of your painting, you are well on your way to an exciting painting. Here are a few other things in mind.
Don't repeat sizes and shapes thru-out the painting. Have large, small and medium items in the painting, never all the same size.
The same goes for color. Don't have equal amounts of warm and cool colors.
Use your dominant, focus color in a smaller amount. There will be larger amounts of the other colors.
The focus color in this turtle painting is orange. Blue and yellow are the supporting colors.
Don't have them looking out the side of the painting. Their line-of-sight will carry the viewer's eye right out of the painting.
Notice the turtle in the painting above is looking into the painting. He has plenty of space in front of his face to look into the painting.
Parallel lines close to the edge of the canvas will pull the viewer's eye out of the painting. Or they will pull their eyes away from the focal point.
A long, straight horizon with no break gives the viewer a highway to travel right out of the painting. Use a bird, a tree, a mountain or something for a break to keep the viewer inside the painting.
In this painting the lighthouse tilts slightly to the center of the painting. The top of the lighthouse is subdued, so it doesn't lead the viewer's eye out of the painting.
Neither the lighthouse, nor the horizon are on the center lines of the
painting. The horizon on the right side of the canvas has less value
contrast and softened edges to keep the eyes inside the
But what if you have a building that is rectangular, a mountain that is shaped like a triangle or a lake that is a circle?
Move the view of the building to change its shape. Or camouflage it with foliage or shadows, etc. Put whoop-dee-dos in the mountain to change its shape. Make a meandering shoreline that is not a perfect circle and etc.
For some reason even numbers such as two, four or six are more stagnant and unexciting to the eye.
So, no matter if its trees, rocks or apples, use odd numbers for easy composition.
Single items are great for the focal area. But in other areas of the painting, group items together. Then they are more comfortable for the viewer.
Artists call that kissing. Avoid objects kissing each other or kissing the side of the canvas.
Overlap them somewhat. Then they won't feel disconcerting.
With these easy composition guidelines you can change and move things around.
If it looks and feel right to you, it will please the viewer. And that's what it's all about.