Icons 1438129615 composition icondb Composition

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In serving our realm, we seek out limits and borders to categorize and define and reveal. We seek to compose images that will communicate our ideas to others. We become masters of the horizon (the horizontal) and aspire to reach unknown spatial heights (in the vertical). Composition is a choreography of the known and the unknown, the invisible and the visible, the beginning and ending frame of a moment of communication. Two-dimensional composition is the arrangement of parts in relationship to each other and to the whole, presented on a single plane. Overall, you have the power to control the bounds or edges of a composition and frame or define its planar limits. As an artist you control point of view, visual emphasis and balance in the placement of the individual parts. The center of a composition is the primary target but focus can be aimed anywhere in the two-dimensional frame.

Change your view. Compose yourself!

Activity 1 – Analyze Composition in Art

Using Google Art Project take a virtual trip to a museum in another country of your choice. Wander the exhibitions. Look for a painting that interests you. Select a painting to analyze. First, describe the painting in your own words. What do you see? Is there a point of focus? Where does your eye travel? Is there a foreground, mid ground and background? Is the composition symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is it formal or informal? What colors, lines or textures did the artist use to engage your viewing? Next, print a copy of the painting. Lay a piece of trace paper over the painting and trace the dominant lines with a dotted marker. With colored pencil , trace key shapes. With a regular pencil, trace in the textures. With a yellow marker, use dashed lines to record where your eyes go first, second, third,etc. Finally write a short paper analyzing the composition of the painting you selected using the trace paper diagram over the copy of the painting as the paper cover. Observe the parts. Describe how the parts affect perception of the whole. Identify visual elements and how they work (or do not work) together. Evaluate the artist’s use of balance, contrast, movement and emphasis. In conclusion, write a paragraph about your interpretation. Be sure to credit the artist, record the name of the painting, and list the museum where the original is exhibited.

balance: harmony is created in a work of art when textures, colors, forms, or shapes are combined harmoniously. contrast: dynamic juxtaposition between two or more subjects, shapes, colors, forms, etc. movement: directed path of viewer’s eye through a composition emphasis: definitive moment (or moments) in a painting that draws viewer in

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Activity 2 – Make A Quadrant Composition

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Compose in four corners or quadrants at once! Think simultaneously. Think of parallel universes! Take your paper and fold it into quarters (first fold the paper in half and then in half again). Thinking about seasons, choose a tree that you know. Draw or photograph the tree. Draw the tree, the sky and the ground in a different season in each quadrant. You can make the tree smaller in three of the quadrants to emphasize one season.

Think in quarters! Emphasize the visual!

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Activity 3 – Make A Tripartite Composition

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Compose in thirds, either vertically or horizontally. Next, look at the animated composition definitions. Brainstorm ideas about a season. Using line, color, texture and shapes, sketch ideas or forms, then cut and arrange them onto your page. Shift scale like in the animations to create depth using something in the foreground that is a different size than in the background.

Think in triplicate!

Activity 4 – Make A Central Emphasis Composition

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Embed your visual power in a piece of paper. Using a blank piece of paper, choose basic shapes (lines, circles, squares, triangles) or a topic like a season. Look at the Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows web link here. See how the panels were organized using lines, squares, rectangles, parallelograms, and sometimes circles. Try one of your own. Focus the emphasis in the middle of the paper. Use scale and contrast to shift attention away from the center to the edges of the paper.


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Activity 5 – Make A Free Composition

You can compose just about anything you get your hands on. You can compose a salad. You can compose a musical score. You can compose a facade on a building. Composition brings visual, aesthetic, rhythmic order to materials, systems, and even experiences. The study of composition crosses many subjects and fields of practice from writing, to city planning, to civil engineering. Composition can be molecular or at the macro scale. Think about your daily life. What around you is composed? Make, or *compose, a great list!


  • A frame of a single image is the limits of its:
  • What three elements make up horizontal compositions?
  • The focus of the image should always be in the center.
  • Contrast is when images blur together.
  • Perspective in a composition cannot be exaggerated to emphasize depth of field.
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