Welcome to Compose. There's lots of stuff here, all about composing paintings.

Consider this blog a resource and feel free to browse its contents through the Subjects and Archives categories in the left column.

Current entries appear in Dianne's weekly newsletter.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

To Look at or To See

Our eyes scan thousands of images every day.  Many of them go unnoticed, some get a momentary glance, but how much do we really see?  And how do we know if we're merely looking at something or actually seeing?

(Read slowly here) Observe. Scrutinize. Recognize. Pay attention to. Contemplate. Discover.  The English language contains an array of words describing ways of seeing.  (Slow down again) Glimpse. Glance. Gaze. Survey. Regard. Review.  The "look at" words have a different flavor, a passing by rather than sinking in.

Scrutinize this scene.

How many compositions do you discover?  Did you recognize this one?

Or this one?

What about this one?
One way to see a potential composition is to observe through a rule of thirds grid, finding horizontals and/or verticals that align with those in the grid, or to align potential focal points with the grid's intersections.  What a super tool for taking us beyond looking at to really seeing.

You can build your own adjustable rule of thirds grid. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Avoiding Visual Cacophony

We know it when we hear it, but what do our eyes do when we see it? Cacophony!  Vocabulary.com says this: "A cacophony is a jarring, discordant mix of sounds that have no business being played together. When the orchestra tunes up before a show, it sounds like a cacophony because each musician is playing a completely different tune, at different times, and at different volumes."  

Although each of our senses has a unique function, they communicate in concert so it is not out of line to apply one sense's definition to another.  Here's an example of visual cacophony that might fit very well with vocabulary.com's definition.
From an artist's viewpoint, if our resource is in clutter, it has visual cacophony. That doesn't mean it is unusable, but it does require some clearing out of junk before selecting and placing images we want to work with.  In other words, rather than use everything we see, we'd do better to decide what needs to be left out.  

This image is visual cacophony.  The llamas might be the subject or the tree or the house, but the scene with all these images from this point of view is cluttered.  

We can begin by taking out everything except the llamas, the front fence and the upper parts of the big trees.  Already, it feels like we can breathe.  The cacophony is gone and instead, we have visual clarity.  We have cleared the clutter.
The key to avoiding visual cacophony is to make an intuitive decision about what is important, then be willing to leave out anything that doesn't in some way help give clarity to the subject without sacrificing interest.  It's a kind of visual purging of the resource.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

That Fascinating Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio was used by the Greeks beginning around 400 B.C and it is suspected that the Egyptians used the principle to design the pyramids long before that.  It is a proportion ratio from length to width of 1 to 1.618.  It can be found in growth patterns within plants, sea creatures, the human body, microscopic cells and the entire universe.  It is so effective that in addition to the visual arts, it is used in music, in science, in mathematics, and even in industry.

It is an incredible mathematical ratio that in some mysterious way seems to harmonize with the human psyche. The Golden Rectangle is built on this ratio. In fact, this shape is so aesthetically charged that architects and other artisans have depended upon it to design their constructions and painters have relied upon it for their image placement ever since it was discovered.


Volumes have been written about the Golden Ratio.  But what is important for us to understand is how we can use it in placing our images.  Artists over the centuries have discovered that placing according to two principles--rabatment and rule of thirds--can give a close approximation to the same aesthetic balance achieved when using the Golden Ratio.

I am exploring these two methods in our new series of video tutorials, Selecting & Placing.  Lesson one shows how to use rabatment, lesson 2 shows aligning images with the intersections of rule of thirds, lesson 3 uses rabatment for helping clear clutter and lesson four aligns with the verticals and horizontals of rule of thirds for finding hidden compositions.   Rather than follow these as rules, I prefer using them as tools for expanding our creative choices.