Art: What is a Perfect Composition?

First of all: What is A COMPOSITION?

Composition! This question may surprise some folks who are familiar with artistic terms, but still it provokes a great many other questions of importance, if you want your paintings to sell well and quickly!

So what is a composition?

  • To the general public they would perhaps associate the word composition with composers of music. An arrangement of score that makes up a beautiful melody.
  • Or perhaps the composing of poetry!
  • To artists it’s an arrangement or placement of elements or things in a picture. And how those elements should interact comfortably and flow effortlessly through the composition (just like a melody of music).
  • The fact is, artists are composers too.
Its all about composition.

A5 watercolour: A field of wild lavender.

That leads to the second question: What is A PERFECT COMPOSITION?

Haw, now that is debatable!

Why? Because artists have different opinions on what they favour. That is: it depends on their style of work and how their imagination pans out.

But here are the basics:

  • The selection of the boldest shapes take command of the scene.
  • Smaller shapes are supportive.
  • And fine details are reduced and selected according to their directive and decorative need. And of cause the selection of detail is at your discretion depending on your subject matter and style.
  • Variation of shapes and their size is important. Everything is the same shape and size within the composition, it gives the painting a regimental stiff appearance.

As to format:

The best compositions are those which are simple and uncomplicated, because they make the most impact and are easier to ‘read’. That requires simplifying planes down to three major planes: background, middle-ground and foreground.

  • These planes can lie or interact horizontally or transverse vertically.
  • The important thing is to have one plane more prominent than the other two, and one  with strong contrast. That can be  within the same plane or not.
  • Generally speaking: Each plane seeming to have its own basic or general overall tone level. That is: one light tone, one medium tone and one dark tone plane. The order doesn’t matter, as long as the main point of interest is attractive by contrast.

As to action and creating life in your paintings:

Besides shapes, lines and brushstrokes are read unconsciously like shorthand.

  • Oblique lines or slopes suggest action.
  • Crossed oblique lines suggest opposition and inter-action.
  • Varied and diminutive zigzag lines describe action, growth and lineal perspective.
  • Wavy Hogarthian lines create flow and movement.
  • Varied arabesque lines, whether curved Lyric or scrolled lines, they create flow of reasoning.

As to visual perception:

  • The main point of interest is generally in focus or in contrast.
  • And the outer edges of the painting out-of-focus.
  • Thus creating a tunnel effect, that draws people into your picture.
  • Of cause atmospheric conditions play a huge part in perspective.

So what about colour?

Is it important when discussing composition? Yes. And Why?

  • If the colours are mainly dull with close analogous hues, the painting will look flat and is boring.
  • There must be impact of colour to attract peoples’ attention in the gallery.

So how should that be done?

  • The first thing most people would say is: contrast of tone and colour.
  • But also contrast of warm and cool colours.

If you have other questions you would like to ask, first consider reading the introduction page:

Click on: Questions & Answer page.