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Tutorial: Some Tips On Composition

Before the artist can put a masterpiece on the paper, there are things that must be considered beforehand. Deciding on the subject to be rendered, of course, is one. But after conceiving what the artist wants to draw, he or she must consider its layout and composition, that is, how it will look on the paper.

Excellent layout, or composition of a drawing is what enhances the work, it makes the work stand out and demand attention. Composition is a major factor in any work of art and if the composition is not right, the rendering will look awkward and out of whack.

A simple method of deciding the composition of any work is the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds compositional technique conceives the planned drawing together with its subjects and regions, and dividing it into thirds along imaginary lines. The Rule of Thirds is not a hard-and-fast rule for every artwork; there are instances where following the Rule of Thirds is not feasible. But to keep it simple for the beginning student, the Rule of Thirds is a very powerful and basic compositional technique.

Rule of Thirds grid

Rule of Thirds applied to landscape sketch


The second illustration above is a good example of how the Rule of Thirds composition is applied to a simple landscape sketch. Notice the trees--they line up with the right-hand vertical line. Also, the horizon line (the distant hills and trees) is parallel with the bottom horizontal line of the grid. The foreground is the first third. The second third is the eye level, and the top of the trees and sky makes up the last third. This makes for strong composition.

You could render the tree in the center, or on the left side. The principles of the Rule of Thirds make way for many possibilities. If you take your own photographs to produce as drawings or paintings, understanding the Rule of Thirds technique is invaluable.

Rule of Thirds composition applied to a portrait sketch

An additional example of the power of the Rule of Thirds at work in composing a portrait drawing, in the example above.

Sketch of a Lighthouse using the Rule of Thirds

In another example of the sketch above of a lighthouse, the Rule of Thirds is applied to center the composition with the lighthouse as the center focus. The sketch is portrait orientated as opposed to the landscape orientation of the two before.

It must be stated that you don't actually need to draw a grid on your drawing, but rather, "see" the grid in your mind's eye when considering the composition of a drawing.

Next post, we will take a look at Perspective...

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