Composition Fundamentals in 2D with Roni Feldman
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Composition Fundamentals in 2D with Roni Feldman

October 17, 2019


Otis College of Art and Design presents “Composition
Fundamentals in 2D” with me, Roni Feldman. As an artist or designer, it is your job to
attract and direct your audience’s attention so you can communicate effectively. Even the
subtlest changes in composition can affect the way we see and understand an image. In
this video, I will use cut paper and collage to show a variety of methods to direct attention.
There are many ways to direct our attention: with patterns, with points, or triangular
and arrow-like forms. Using geometric shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, “x”s,
or other polygons, faces and eyes attract our attention extremely well, but we are only
using abstract forms for this demonstration so you can understand the fundamentals. Our
eyes will typically go to the largest, most prominent object first, and then move to the
smaller objects. You can also create balance or move the eye’s back and forth between two
or more points by giving the objects equal weight. Because we read from left to right
in Western culture, the right side of our compositions tend to feel heavier. You may
sometimes need to balance this effect by adding a little more weight to the left side of your
composition. This may differ in other cultures. The shapes don’t always have to be the same.
Here I have balanced a geometric form with a grouping of smaller forms. The shapes and
sizes are different, but their weight draws our eye almost equally. Similarly, because
everything on our Earth responds to gravity, we are used to feeling more emphasis on the
bottom of a composition. To balance this, you may sometimes want to put a little extra
weight at the top of your composition. Value contrast is another way to attract attention.
Dark objects surrounded by white or vice-versa draw the eye very well. Bright saturated colors
and certain color harmonies also draw the eye well, but here I will only be using value.
Notice how the high contrast values attract the eye much more than low contrast ones.
Different textures and edges can also draw attention. Here I have cut, crumbled, torn,
and twisted paper. Be aware that irregular edges may draw attention differently than
smooth edges. Experiment to see which is more effective for your composition. While you
may be aware that size can affect your focal point, an object’s position can as well. You can draw even more attention to an object by placing it in the middle. Sometimes having
it touch the edge of the page can make it seem larger or more prominent. Touching the
edges creates tension. Now we will look at some completed collages that use a variety
of these techniques. The first type of composition we shall consider is asymmetrical with a focal
point. It is based on the Golden Section, which is a geometric principle that directs
the eye to the lower right hand corner on a rectilinear format, but doesn’t keep it
there. Our eye pauses and continues to track around the page. This example has placed a
spiral shape at the focal point to draw our attention there. If it was any larger or had
more value contrast, it might own our attention. As it is, the other shapes keep our gaze moving.
Notice how this example does not have a shape placed at the focal point, but nonetheless,
it is able to draw our attention there using points to direct the eye. This collage uses
a variety of scales to move the eye around. There are many other types of compositions
we commonly employ for our designs. Each composition can apply different semiotics. While an asymmetrical
composition with a focal point may imply difference, importance or dominance, a central doughnut
hole or target composition could give a sense of singularity, wholeness, or unity. A composition
with bi-lateral symmetry can symbolize balance, harmony, lack of dominance, or two groups
that are equal but separate. A regular or ordered composition can imply rigidity, or
loss of individualism. There are many other organizing principles such as horizontal,
vertical, diagonal, radial, irregular, random, and more. Consciously selecting the right
composition and methods of tracking for what your job requires.

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  1. Thanks for this video: as a former art student reintroducing myself to the principles of drawing, I'd recommend this not only to beginners but intermediate/advanced students seeking a refresher course.

    I found this presentation very informative and relatively engaging. I have a hard time paying attention to instructions read from a script. It's not that big of a deal but it's an added challenge to nontypical cognitive people like me. Please consider making notes for the presentation but then staying as far away from them as possible during the presentation. This will bring a stronger dynamic to your voice and more variation to pace which will keep the students waiting for what you say next. See Jordan B Peterson talk on lecturing. 😉

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