Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Composition Tips from the Best in the Business

"Moonshines"  24x18 mixed media on canvas

After entering several juried competitions – winning some and losing some. I usually ask for the reason I was turned down, hoping that I’ll learn from my mistakes. One of the comments that threw me for a loop was “the judge said, composition.”

Of course, the reason is never explained. “What was it about my composition,” I ask? “Did the judge give an explanation? No answer. My most recent criticism: “Conflict of color.” Whatever that means? I had to do some research to find out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not always a loser. I have had many paintings accepted into juried galleries or competition. But it still smarts!

I went to  one of my favorite sites. Here’s what they had to say: “Strong composition in a painting can be very intangible . . . if it’s done well, you don’t notice it; you just know that there’s something appealing. When a painting’s composition is done badly, the painting just feels awkward.” Pretty nebulous, if you ask me! Always remember that it’s one judge’s opinion.

"Victims of War" 24x18 mixed media (accepted into juried competition)
 I do know that juried judges go through considerable education to achieve the honor and distinction of judging art shows. I also know that their concepts are hundreds of years old and proven. On the other hand, art trends are constantly changing. What becomes popular, trendy, and saleable, seldom appeals to traditional judges.

It’s nice to have some juried shows under your belt. It looks good on a CV. But it doesn’t necessarily equate with sales and money in the bank.

"Skudeneshavn Norway" 16x20 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available
The web link above goes onto provide 10 painting tips for strong compositions. I selected only a few to share with you:
  1. Where’s the focal point? The focal point should draw the viewers eye to it. Remember the rule of thirds? Locate the focal point on one of those intersection spots. Avoid the center. Make certain your eye is not led off the page; bring it back.
  2.  Isolate the key elements in what you want to paint, whether it’s a still life or a landscape piece. Use a view finder, if necessary, to zero in on it. Know what your focal point is and what you’re trying to say.
  3.  Have an odd number of elements: three versus two, five versus four; it adds interest rather than sameness. Space those elements unevenly on your canvas. Trees do not grow in nature the way they are lined up in a Nursery. Always vary the space between your elements/images and vary the angles to add interest. Elements must be definitely apart or definitely overlapped; not just touching. 
  4. Choose your color tones, whether warm or cool, but don’t try to be both. When the judge said one of my paintings had a “conflict of color” was he saying I had used warm and cool colors or was it the wrong choice of color? I will never know. It would be so helpful if a critique were required from the judges.

"Moody Blues" 18x14 oil on canvas
Don't give up on juried shows. Just keep trying and studying the rules of good art. I purposely used both warm and cool colors to accentuate the girls "moody blues" mood. Yes, I broke the rules, and this probably won't get in juried competition. It is trendy and current, however.

The painting below came in third place in a juried show. The judge commented that she would have liked to see more shadows. Yes more shadows would give it a picturesque feel, but I didn’t have a spotlight, and the photograph I worked from was the winner in a contest on my blog. I was still pleased with the third place win.

"With these Hands -- Love" 24x18 oil on canvas, framed