Composition in Still Life Drawing and Painting with Christine Frerichs
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Composition in Still Life Drawing and Painting with Christine Frerichs

September 24, 2019


Otis College of Art and Design presents with me, Christine Frerichs. Today we’re going to talk about
composition in still life drawing and painting. When talking about painting or drawing, the term composition refers to how line, shape, value, and color are arranged together in the
picture plane. We’ll discuss how to create a resolved
composition. One that elicits dynamic eye movement from those viewing your work. As an artist, you want your viewer to spend some time looking at your work. You want their eyes to wander throughout the composition and you want them to feel excited and engaged while exploring the image you created. A result composition means that the
viewer’s eyes are doing what you the artist want them to do. and your viewers are looking where you
want them to look. Here are some strategies for achieving
dynamic eye movement in a still life composition. We will begin by defining a few terms. Foreground refers to the objects in the
drawing or painting whose positions in space are closest to
the viewer. Objects in the middle ground are a bit farther away from the viewer. And objects in the background are the furthest from the viewer. One way to encourage your viewer’s eyes to move through your composition is
to create deep space. With objects positioned in the
foreground, middle-ground, and background. Even if your still life arrangement is only a few feet deep, you can still create the illusion of deep
space. Another strategy for achieving a defined sense of space and movement is to use a strong light source to organize your
composition. Notice the abstract play of lights and darks in this painting
and how the light and dark shapes lead your eye throughout the image. The playful interlocking of lights and darks which make your eye move around the picture plane happens again here with this Picasso
painting. And even more abstractly in this contemporary drawing. Take a look at this still life composition by Cezanne, and see if you can keep track of how
your eyes are moving throughout the space. Do you notice your eyes moving around in
a particular direction on particular pathways throughout the
composition? There’s a term for this movement, it’s
called directional lines. Cezanne composed this image so that the folds of the light fabric in the foreground create a
directional line leading your eyes to the stacked fruit
near the center of the composition in the middle ground, and then momentarily your eyes might travel to the pattern fabric in the background, and then follow the
light fabric back into the middle and
foreground. Directional lines are not physically
drawn lines in the composition. They are implied lines created by objects next to one another. or areas of light and dark which appear to connect like stepping
stones leading your eyes on a path. Okay let’s go deeper into our analysis and learn a few more strategies that artists use to create dynamic eye movement in the
composition. This image is very much alive with
energy in part due to its use of opposing
diagonals. Opposing diagonals are implied diagonal lines which cross throughout the composition. Try to find them here in this drawing by Jonas Wood. And here How about in this image? See if you can find them here on the
left in this painting from 1640 and then notice the way that Matisse
made his own version on the right over three hundred years later in 1915. Matisse used more apparent opposing
diagonals to create a rather complicated and tightly organized composition. Another way to assure eye movement in your composition is following what is called the rule of thirds. When you divide your picture plane into thirds both horizontally and
vertically you create 9 equal size sections as well as four focal points where the
lines cross. To activate eye movement in your viewers, position objects along these vertical
and horizontal lines. Or at one or more of these intersections where the vertical and horizontal lines
cross one another. You can also arrange the objects in your
composition so that they cluster within each of the
nine sections and the horizontal or vertical lines fall in the negative space between
objects as seen in this example. Notice how both of these images are
composed with most of the objects outside the
direct center. If you place objects directly in the
center, composition will appear static and the eye will refuse to explore the rest of the image. Finally, when composing your still life drawing, you want to ensure a clear footprint for your objects. The footprint
of an object is quite simply where it sits on the ground plane in
space, showing your objects footprint implies
gravity in the composition and reaffirms the object’s position in space whether they be in the
foreground, middle ground, or background. With a complex composition you will likely not be able to see every
object’s footprint as some objects will overlap others. If possible, try to always show the
footprint of the objects in the foreground. Good luck!>>

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