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Lesson 12: Composition

Page last modified 13:53, 3 Jan 2016 by Karen_Simion
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    Class# 12: Composition                            April 4-8, 2016          

    Materials needed:  ?Strathmore Sketchbook Pad (9 x 12)?Drawing pencils ?Pencil sharpener?Sanford kneaded erasers

    CSLO 2.1 Student will be able to Illustrate symmetrical and asymmetrical balance.

    CSLO 2.3 Student will be able to create unity in a work of art using harmony, movement, emphasis, rhythm.

    CSLO 2.4 Student will be able to produce sketches illustrating different types of rhythm - progressive, alternative, repetitive, flowing.

    CSLO 3.1 Student will be able to evaluate his/her own work of art.

    Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients ?into a work of art. The term composition means 'putting together,' and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with ?various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, ?depending on the context.  ?Composition is how you arrange your drawing to make it most interesting for your viewer.

    There are numerous approaches or "compositional techniques" to achieving ?a sense of unity within an artwork, depending on the goals of the artist. ?For example, a work of art is said to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye if ?the elements within the work are arranged in a balanced compositional ?way. 

    However, there are artists such as Salvador Dali whose sole aim ?is to disrupt traditional composition and challenge the viewer to rethink ?balance and design elements within art works.  Here is an example of his artwork:  ??

    Rhythm is another principle that aids composition in a work of art. Rhythm was breifly discussed along with pattern in the previous assignment.  Rhythm in art is a visual feeling rather than something you hear as with music. Five types of rhythm are presented here (

    Random - elements that repeat with not regularity.

    Repetitive (regular) - an element (line, shape, color, etc.) repeated with equal amounts of space between the element. The link below is an example.

    Alternative - a pattern can be achieved by changing an element at regular intervals.  The link below is an example.

    Flowing - created by repeating wavy lines and curved lines.  See the link below for an example.

    Progressive - there is a change in the element each time it is repeated such as from small to larger, dark to light, near to far.  See the example by following the link below.

    Conventionally pleasing composition can be achieved by utilizing a number of techniques:

    The Rule of Thirds?The rule of thirds is a guideline commonly followed by visual artists. The ?objective is to stop the subject(s) and areas of interest (such as the horizon) ?from bisecting the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would ?divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the ?intersection of those lines. ??

    Rule of Space?The rule of space applies to visual artwork in which the artist wants to apply the illusion of movement, or which is supposed to create a contextual bubble in the viewer's mind.  This can be achieved, for instance, by leaving white space in the direction the eyes of a portrayed person are looking.  Another way to use this rule would be by adding white space in front of a runner rather than behind him to indicate movement.  Here are some examples:

    In the example below, notice the space on the right side of the picture where the woman’s eyes are looking:??

    In this image there is space in front of the man riding his bicycle:??

    Limiting focus  ?In the visual arts, one approach to creating an interesting composition is by using limited focus.  This means that not everything in your picture will be clear.  This can be used in many visual art forms including drawing, painting, photography and digital artwork.  One advantage of limiting focus is that it helps the viewer to understand what is the subject of the work of art.  Here is an example of limited focus in a composition:

    In this picture the metal ball in the front of the picture is in focus and the background is out of focus:??

    In this picture the wine glass in font is in focus while those in back are blurry:??

    Framing Your Subject?Another technique used in the visual arts to create an interesting ?composition is the use of framing.  By finding a way to frame the subject?of your picture, you can improve your picture by showing your viewer what? you wish for them to look at.?In this example, the person that is the subject of the picture is framed by a cave: ??

    In this example, a landscape has been framed by a window:

    Simplification?Images with clutter can distract from the main elements within the picture ?and make it difficult to identify the subject. By decreasing the extraneous ?content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the subject of the work of art. ?Clutter can also be reduced through the use of lighting, as the brighter ?areas of the image tend to draw the eye, as do lines, squares and color. ?In painting, the artist may use less detailed and defined brushwork ?towards the edges of the picture.

    In this example of a simplified composition, the picture only includes a corner of a building and a view of the sky:??

    In this painting, the only subject is the vase with flowers so it’s a simple composition:??

    Using Diagonal or Leading Lines :

    In composition, leading or diagonal lines are used to draw the eyes of the viewer to a point of interest. Diagonal lines are often considered more interesting then vertical or horizontal lines. If used correctly, diagonals can express movement in a picture. Diagonal lines can also add a sense of depth to the image.  Here are examples.

    In this picture of sand, there is a diagonal line running from the top left corner down:??

    In this picture, there are diagonal lines coming from each of the 4 corners of the frame and leading your eye to the center:??

    Symmetrical Composition:?In a symmetrical composition both sides of a work of art are identical or very similar and create a sense of balance.  If you were to cut the artwork in half both sides would be almost the same.  Here is an example of are with a symmetrical composition:??


    Asymmetrical Composition:?In an asymmetrical composition both sides of a work of art are NOT identical but are different from each other.  Asymmetrical compositions are less balanced and stable looking than are symmetrical compositions.  Here is an example of art with an asymmetrical composition:

    Homework Assignment:

    Now that you have learned about different kinds of composition and rhythm it is time for you to try your hand at it.  Your homework is to do a series of drawing using different compositions and rhythms.  You will have to decide which type rhythm best fits with which type of composition technique and subject matter.  An example is if you are drawing a tree with leaves, you might use progressive rhythm.

    •  Do a drawing using the rule of thirds.  To do this, first draw a rectangle on a piece of sketchbook paper that is at least 8 inches long that looks like this: ?


    • Next, divide the your rectangle into thirds by drawing two vertical and two horizontal lines like this picture:
    • Next making a drawing of something you see being sure to put the main subject of the picture on one of the vertical or horizontal lines. 
    • Create one type of rhythm in your drawing and identify the type of rhythm in the Flickr description panel.

    •  Do a drawing with an asymmetrical composition of a coconut.?

    • Create another type of rhythm in this drawing and identify the type of rhythm in the Flickr description panel.

    •  Do a drawing with a symmetrical composition of 4 reef fish.?

    • Create a third type of rhythm in this drawing and identify the type of rhythm in the Flickr description panel.

    •  Do a drawing of a tree and use framing to show the viewer what the main subject of the drawing is. (Do not draw a picture frame around the tree.)

    • Create a fourth type of rhythm in this drawing and identify the type of rhythm in the Flickr description panel.

    Each of your four drawings should be on a separate piece of paper. Use the entire paper for each drawing. After you have done your four drawings, scan your work and upload it onto your Flickr page.

     In the Flickr “Description” panel be sure to include what kind of composition you used for your drawings and identify the type of rhythm used in each drawing.   Any work that has not been uploaded by the evening of April 8th, will be marked down one letter grade for each week day it is late. Be sure to complete the "Student Rating" section on the rubric for this assignment.  The rubric is located in the files at the bottom of this page.  Email the rubric to

    This concludes the ninth class for AR101.  If you have any questions regarding the material or assignment please email your instructor at

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