Composition is the selective arrangement of elements in a painting. Our goal as artists is to lead the viewer’s eye into and around the painting while keeping interest in the focal point.
Okay…again, think of it like feng shui in a living room. The placement of the sofa, chairs, table and art on the walls create the composition of the room. You decide your room’s focal point, where your guests sit and so on…hopefully with good placement so the room feels chi or positive energy.
Now, back to painting…
Most artists make preparatory sketches using pencil or charcoal to record the light and dark (yin/yang) masses and positive and negative (yin/yang) shapes until a pleasing and well balanced composition is chosen. These opposites attract in art. See you have used ying/yang and didn’t even know it!!! After that, the skilled artist uses the painterly elements harmoniously.
In Chinese yin/yang philosophy, the visual path is the energy of chi in the painting. These opposing forces govern the balance and movement of the composition. These forces are down/up, left/right, small/large, and back/front. In designing a painting, these forces can be used to move the eye through the painting. A strong composition always has movement or rhythm or else it has no chi or energy. This rhythm can vary greatly from painting to painting.
A painting can be calm and quiet, gently leading the viewer’s eye through the composition or it can be busy and edgey with a staccato rhythm. My painting, “Spring Dream” is an example of a calm, rhythmic (yin) painting and color harmony. The gently bending branches and the placement of the birds and the close values create as sense of poetic elegance that is reminescent of the 16th -18th century Japanese bird and flower paintings.
“On Edge – Magpie” is an example of how I used a simple design that is dynamic and energetic (yang). The angle of the bird and the repeating black and white paterns gives energy to this painiting. The bird is perched and ready for action and looks as though is about to fly out of the painting. The unification of pattern and rhythm within the painting creates an energetic composition.
Try some of these compositional yin/yang concepts in your next painting.
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