Thursday, January 9, 2014
Composition and Value
Day 9 in the 30 in 30 Day Challenge
As I stated when I started the 30 in 30 Challenge, although I paint a lot, I don't paint every single day, and I don't paint that many small paintings. But, I like a challenge and I like to make things work. So, this week I'm working on a 20 x 20 of a farm from our visit in September to Vermont. Everyday I'll post about 1 to 2 hours worth of work until I'm done.
One of the fundamentals of drawing and painting that can be challenging is composition. We know that a painting needs a good composition to work. But, what makes a good composition? When you look at the work of a master in a museum, why does it stand out? What piece in a gallery really draws you? Sometimes it's the strong light, sometimes it's the bold or subtle value and color, sometimes it's the great composition. There's a lot more to a painting than just painting.
Very basically composition is the placement of the dominant mass(es) and line(s). I like the movement in the upper right sketch because the lines of the cornfield move up to the mass of the shape of the farm.
As many of us do, I have a lot of art books. Two of my favorites are Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne and Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson. I was much newer to painting when I first got these and found them hard to get through. I've read and reread them (sometimes only a chapter or two at a time) over the years and appreciate all that they teach. I love Paynes' drawings for his suggestions for design. They are so helpful when landscape painting. Carlson also has diagrams showing dominant mass and line schemes.
I don't do sketches like this with every painting, although I probably should do more. I knew that I wanted to paint some of the barns and farms in Vermont. I took so many photos that had good starts for a painting but needed work. So I spent quite awhile just editing photos, before I even got to sketching. After I picked four that I liked and thought would work I tried to get the composition working on the photo, then adjusted it as I sketched. I don't always grid my sketches, but find that that is helpful with architecture. By the time I got to the end of these 4 sketches I'd probably been working for about 2 hours. I'm not used to photoing white, so the values don't show up very well.