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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ten Composing Commandments

Not long after I began this blog about composing, I started receiving e-mails from various artists asking me what I think are the most important considerations while composing. It is true that if one looks at all the principles and their ramifications, it can be overwhelming to say the least and confusing at best.

While I am pretty dogmatic about the importance of an artist learning how to use the principles as tools, I am equally dogmatic about forgetting about them during the painting process. It's a dichotomy in a way: what can be the strength of a painting can also destroy it.

Learning to use these tools must become a part of our bone marrow just as an ice skater's tools are deeply embedded within her muscles. Ice skaters must not think while they are performing; neither must the painter. Yet because our guides live within us, they will under gird whatever we do with our craft.

I gave it some thought and came up with my preferred list. Notice it assumes we're already learned the compositional tools. Or that we apply what we have learned then go learn some more.

Ten Commandments for Composing a Painting
Prelude: Have a clear idea--a concept--of what you want the painting to be about. (Thanks, Marc Hanson, for suggesting that I add this in.)
1. Study subject intensely before committing a single brush stroke
2. Squint while studying subject
3. Search for patterns of light while squinting
4. Search for patterns of dark while squinting
5. Extract design pattern from findings of 3 and 4 and develop
6. While painting look three times, think twice, paint once. (courtesy Robert Genn)
7. Keep every color applied consistent with the temperature of the light source. (Courtesy Richard Schmid)
7. Edit between sessions not while painting
9. Taken advantage of compositional tools throughout.
10. Ignor whatever doesn't belong.
Because each of us is unique, we each must develop our own individual approach to painting. I'm sharing mine only because I enjoy sharing ideas. On my website, I've attempted a personal account of my own creative process. You can see it HERE.

2 comments:

Marc R. Hanson said...

Dianne I love your blog. I'm honored that you've used one of my images as an example in your teachings, one of the most important things that we can do as practiced artists. Thank you.

Would it be rude of me to suggest an amendment, maybe 1a, to your list of commandments?

One of the things that I emphasize in my own classes with students is the idea of 'Concept'. I'm of the thought that unless you have a solid concept, an idea of what it is you want to say and how, composition and it's accompanying needs concerning paint quality, color, value, design and all, are lacking a purpose for being.

Having a point to make, an idea to express is the precursor to knowing what to do with a squinting eye, patterns, color (it's value, temperature and intensity), light source, and any other technical consideration involved in painting.

Composition after all is a means to an end. The end being what it is that the artist intends to convey to his or her audience. Without a conceptual approach to a painting all of the other considerations have no where to be planted.

Thanks for listening.
Marc

Dianne Mize said...

Marc,
Thanks so much for your comment and by no means is your suggested amendment rude; quite the contrary, it is a point of clarity which I assumed, but did not emphasize.
Of course, yes indeed, the concept is of utmost importance. Perhaps that should come as a prelude, before "study the subject intensely...' And I think I'll go edit that in right now.
The beauty of artists helping artists and teachers helping teachers is that we bring clarity.