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Environment Concept Art:
Philip Straub, 5 December 2005
Composition is everything! No amount of detail in an illustration or Concept Painting will be successful without a strong composition foundation. Composition in Environment Concept painting can be quite difficult since your focal point usually isn’t as obvious as in a character piece.
In this introduction to Composition we will explore the fundamentals used to create exciting and functional compositions along with a variety of composition techniques. Initially I will show some successful examples of iconic composition, formal composition, the rule of 3rds, the golden rule, etc. There will be a discussion on what makes each piece successful and an explanation on why the artist chose to describe the scene using a particular form of composition.
From the golden rule came the “rule of thirds” which is virtually the same concept but slightly altered to fit photographic proportions.I find it a bit easier to follow since it's very simple in its origin.Here we have a look at the rule of thirds in action.
|Notice that the main focal point sits right almost directly over one of the “golden means.” Additionally, other objects are placed near the other converging lines (the bird, for example) but, not directly on them, since that would create competition for the focal point.|
|There are Four Spots where these lines cross the Upper Left the Lower Left, the Upper Right and the Lower Right. Please note that all the “hotspots” are away from the center position in the picture frame. |
The two best “power points” are the Upper Right and the Lower Right because the eye enters the picture frame at the lower left hand corner of the picture frame, travels to the center of the picture area and then reaches the right hand ‘Golden Mean’ position where it stops to look at the ‘Center Of Interest’.
The reason the eye enters a picture at the lower left side is because we are taught to read from Left to Right. This is a psychological fact that has been proven over the years. Next time you’re in an art gallery or art museum that shows the Old Masters paintings, notice how many have the Center Of Interest in the “Golden Rule” positions.
| ||Above is an example of the rule of thirds, this time utilizing a vertical canvas. As you can see regardless of your canvas proportions the “rule of thirds” can be applied. Notice the hotspot falls near the center of the converging lines.|
Be very careful that you do not place two centers of interest of equal importance and weight directly in 2 Golden Mean positions, especially on opposite sides of the picture frame.
This will cause the eye a lot of trouble as it will keep going back and forth from one Center of Interest to the other and will get confused and tired and want to leave the picture area.
| When you take the canvas area and divide it into ‘thirds’ Horizontally and Vertically, where the lines cross in the picture area is a ‘Golden Mean’, or the best spot in which to place your Main Subject or Object of Interest as it is the Focal Point of your picture. The golden rule originates from the Ancient Greeks, since they were great mathematicians as well as artisans, they came to the conclusion that there needed to be a certain balance in composition for it to be pleasing to the eye. They further developed this theory and defined what they called “power points,” Power points are located at the point where the lines used in the golden rule intersect. By placing a main subject on a power point, it further defined that subject as the focal point.|
The golden rule can and usually is applied to a paintings canvas proportions. As you read through the following text you’ll notice that most of the imagery presented utilizes similar dimensions and almost all of them fall into the “golden rectangle.” Today you can find the Golden Rectangle almost everywhere: from credit cards to phone cards to book covers, all are shaped with its proportions. The Golden Ratio (the ratio of the longer and shorter sides of the Golden Rectangle) also appears in many natural phenomena. The ratio between the length of your nose and the distance from the bottom of the chin to the bottom of the nose is the golden ratio. The spiral growth of crustaceans follows the golden spiral. The divine proportions are an in-built (or in-grained) aesthetic parameter we judge beauty by.
The imagery below represents the division of space when the “golden rule” is applied to a blank canvas. Basically it is the division of a line in two sections, where the ratio between the smallest section and the largest section is identical to the ratio between the largest section and the entire length of the line. In other words A/B = B/(A+B). The ratio is about 1/1.618. Honestly, I’m still not exactly sure what that all means? but, I do know that I used this grid layout a-lot when I first started painting and found it helpful. I still do.
In the beginning you may find it useful to use this as an overlay for every concept piece you do. Having this grid float over your imagery as a reminder of where to place the objects of importance in the scene may help you as your develop your composition.
|‘Implied Forms’ are a combination of ‘Implied Lines’ and they help to hold a painting together. The eye enjoys these interesting forms and will stay in the picture area to examine each one of them, if they are present. The following text and sample imagery will demonstrate a variety of implied forms and composition approaches.|
|The Cilrcle is made up of a continuous ‘Curve’ and it’s circular movement keeps the eye in the picture frame. There are many circles in nature and man made objects. You can use the circle in a very obvious way in your composition or simply suggest it.|
|The above image is a very obvious and deliberate usage of circular composition. Notice how the circular shapes created by the dragons also follow a path that leads your eye towards the focal point.|