Composition Part 1

In my pursuits of learning about what makes a good painting, I did a “google” search on what makes a “good composition”. Composition is one of those art terms that is hard to wrap your head around.

Composition is simply the placement of images in a piece of art. It is the overall design of a piece that holds the entire painting together in cohesion.

So, what makes a “good composition”?

In my internet research, I realized how subjective composition can really be. What seems good to one person may be unappealing to another.

It may be the intension of the artist to create something unappealing causing purposeful tension. Picasso said that you must “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”

I came across an experiment where, using Photoshop, someone changed the composition of a well-known artist’s work just to see if people could recognize the compositional elements changed. It created a lot of buzz and discussion, but at the end of the day, the answer was unclear and caused a bunch of confusion.

However, there does seem to be some rules about composition that make for a pleasing design.

Repetition create rhythm and interest. Also, lines that lead your eye into a painting create good composition. The use of negative space can alter a composition from bad to good.

Balance or the use of a grid are also other compositional tools.

When developing a work of art, the artist must consider lighting, texture, symbolism to organize the design into an effective composition.

But, really, these “rules” for good composition are more “tools” that are subject to the hand of the artist’s taste and are judged by the opinion of the viewer. 

Visit my blog posts Composition Part 2 & Part 3 to dive into a more in depth look at these compositional design principles.