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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Working Rules Rather than Following Them

We've been taught that 2x2=4.  But that's not all the story:  2x2=1+3 as well. 2x2 also equals 5-9 and 24/6.  It's a matter of how you think about it.  It's attitude.  To insist that 2x2 is always 4 is to hold a restrictive and resistant attitude.  The same is true for principles of composition.
To resist learning composing principles because they are too difficult to deal with or because you fear they will stifle your creativity is the same as declaring that 2x2 always equals 4.  But what if I told you that there's another way to look at it.  What if there is a way to work a principle rather than follow it.
Let's play with this idea.  Look at this J.M.W. Turner painting done in his early 20's. 
 Alum Bay, Isle of Wight     Joseph Mallord William Turner    1795
If Turner had looked at the scene as content for working a principle rather than images to paint, he might have switched his vision from the scene to an exercise in aerial perspective.  His intention then might have been how to keep images up close defined and in strong value contrast while allowing distant images to become less distinct and in close value contrast.   
We can extract that intention and apply it to a scene like this portion of Lake Erie. 
Rather than duplicate the scene, if we use it to find a way to keep images up close defined and in strong value contrast while allowing distant images to become less distinct and in close value range, we will have used aerial perspective as a tool rather than have followed it as a rule
Using this approach, we can add ways to solve the problem more creatively.  For example, your intention could be this:  Find a way to keep images up close defined and in strong value contrast while allowing distant images to become less distinct and in a close value range, using a complementary limited palette. 
When we take ourselves through this kind of problem solving as exercises, we don't have to worry about principles because we give ourselves the experience that enables using them without thinking.  They become a part of our tool kit.

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