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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Placing Our Images: Rabatment

Once we've learn how to stay out of the image trap, it's a good thing to know how to place our images for the strongest impact and the most interesting composition. But first, we need to address the cardinal rule about placement: the yolk of a fried egg floats in the middle. Avoid the fried egg syndrome and keep your center of attention OUT of the MIDDLE of your painting. The masterful composer might ingeniously place important images in the middle and make it work, but nine times out of ten, placement in the middle spells disaster.

Painters can rely on several sound strategies for finding a good placement. One of these is called the rabatment of the rectangle. The rabatment is the square found on either side of a rectangle by taking the short side and making a square out of it. For each horizontal rectangle, there is a right rabatment and a left rabatment. Placing the most important images or activity within either of these squares creates a structure that enables the viewer's eye to sense the structure and perceive it as harmonious .

"Committee Meeting" Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2007 Dianne Mize
Click on image for larger verson.

Above in my watercolor painting of jaybirds, notice how I've placed the two conversationalists within the left rabatment and the onlooker outside of it.

To experiment with using the rabatment for your placement, begin by doing a drawing free-floating on the page without a format around it. For this exercise, I'll be using the drawing on the lower right of my sketchbook page.

Create a view-finder whose vertical side is the same length as the vertical height of your drawing. Then, make the horizontal a length which will give you a standard proportion. Example: if your drawing is 3 inches high, your viewfiender might be 3" x 5". Within that viewfinder, the 3" x 3" square of space on the right and on the left are your rabatments.

Now, place the viewfinder over the drawing so that the major idea of the drawing fits into that square portion of space. Now you see how a rabatment works. (You can click on each image for a larger version.)
This would be the plan for your painting. Pretty neat stuff, huh?

1 comment:

Hobo Divine said...

Pretty neat is an understatement!
Thank you for sharing Dianne!


~ Hobo