How to CREATE COMPOSITIONS like Rembrandt | The Rembrandt Course
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How to CREATE COMPOSITIONS like Rembrandt | The Rembrandt Course

October 16, 2019


This is Ruud.
-Hi! What are we going to learn today? Today we’re going to learn about composition. And we’re also going to look into how.. Rembrandt uses his compositions.
-Interesting! Welcome to RijksCreative,
a Rijksmuseum initiative. In this course we will teach you the ways of Rembrandt.. using modern materials and techniques. Meet the expert, Jane Turner. Hi Jane!
-Hi! How do you recognize Rembrandt’s Compositions? Let’s take the example of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Which is his one and only group militia portrait. Instead of a static row of portrait heads.. he takes the figures, and sets them outside. On the job, as it were. And through a complex arrangement of figures and diagonals.. from the lances, flags and spears. He creates a sense of movement and recession. A sense of depth. Which is best seen in my favorite motive. Which is the spear held by the lieutenant in gold on the left. As it comes out en points at you with its blue and yellow tassel.
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Ruud, let’s do this!
-Okay! Okay, composition.
What is composition? Composition has to do with dividing
your surface into different parts. To express certain things, to tell a story in a way. Rembrandt did it really obviously because he was really.. a storyteller so he uses his
composition to make a specific story. But what is composition?
We know it of music of course.. with all kinds of tones and instruments. But the only instrument we have today is a charcoal. By making a composition, you direct.. the one who is standing in front of your artwork. You direct his way of perceiving your piece of art. Rembrandt wanted to create movement. And by using his composition in a way. That the movement is almost palpable. What he did for instance in The Night Watch. He didn’t want to do things in the middle.. but he wanted to do things.. just outside.. of the middle. So making it a symmetrical.. because this figure is important. The figure next to him is also important. But, you see all kinds of sticks. And the sticks go that way.. and here is a flag going that way. Here is a gun going that way. And here is a man.. banging a drum and it is also going that way. Here are three figures, three four, four figures. And what he made here, because they end up here in the dark. So here is the residual space again. And this residual space.. is pushing towards this figure. It’s like squeezing a balloon almost. For instance the man over here.
On the side, this one. This is his arm.
In front of someone else. You could say ‘why?’ Why, because the other one who is standing behind here. This figure, we can’t see anymore. But Rembrandt needed this because of this direction.. with the hand. Is giving a movement towards this important figure again. So by following all the directions and all the movements. They all go to the middle. And now the middle is this black man.. and he is standing next to a white man. So it’s very obvious that those two.. will pop out in your composition. But also, and that’s very clever. When you look at the man.. who has this flag in his hand. And who is looking at it, this guy. This is dark.
And the darkness.. Is a residual form again. It surrounds this little girl.
Over here. The little princess. Which is surrounded by all those black things.. but also all the diagonals.. Go towards her. So in this way.. Rembrandt.. Let us have a focus,
on the girl. He is very clever in directing.. Our way of perceiving this painting. And actually in the whole thing. The whole thing, the whole Night Watch. With all those figures around it. All the directions made us look in fact to the
little girl with the chicken.. and the black man with his hand in the light. And of course the rest of the people are also important.. but for the composition he uses them only.. To give those directions. So that’s how you use a composition.. in a very vivid way.. Because it’s not symmetrical,
it’s asymmetrical. But he made sure that we.. discover the most important parts.. By using those directions. Because this is our last episode of the Rembrandt course.. We would like to encourage you,
to build your own composition.. as Ruud will be doing in the rest of the episode. Now we’re going to make a composition of our own. To help me, I just made this. This is just a piece of paper, I cut out a frame.
Oops.. Use one eye, not both eyes.
Because by using one eye.. you get the depth out of your vision.. so things become flat.
I’m going to use this to make.. a funny, Rembrandt-esk..
Drawing. Let’s start! I start with the light part. The light part.
And I’m going to do that with the big brush. Big brush.
Bit of ink. Not too dark.
Just to get my composition right. Let’s see, yeah
So, we go here. We go there.
I use this.. very light form of.
This is the stand. Which is over here. You see the funny thing is,
you see all kind of lines.. which we also saw in the Night Watch. All the directions.
But this times it’s not lances and that sort of things. But it’s stance. There’s a person sitting over here. So.
A little hat. Someone standing over there. I’m just, it’s just for the composition now. I just begin with water. I’m going to use a bigger brush. Some shadow over here. You see the composition already. It’s not in the middle.
It’s asymmetrical. Now I use a bit of detailing. With black ink. Because this one.. Because this is.. I’m going to dry it up a little bit. Because this is just.. for the positioning of the different things. Now I’m going to use black to be more specific. He has headphones. Just for the composition,
I’m not going to make portraits or sort of thing. It’s just to show how you can use.. Your surrounding just to. He has shoes with laces. Black shoes. He has a black beard. Now he’s smiling. He’s standing over there.
Something, Someone standing over here. No, sitting! Cap.
With an initial on top of it. NY. Let’s be specific. Legs.
You’ve got very long legs! Now we’ve got our main characters. The nice thing is, that the couch has these.. These things. We can use that to get the attention on this. It’s a nice couch, it’s from leather. The girl has to dry up a little bit. Then I’m going give her the next layer. She has long hair. And her sweater has little stripes. When you look at things, use.. the structures which you find on the surface. Now I’m going to combine those things. Because they are too loose.
And I want to make a sort of.. light and dark in it. So now I’m going to look very carefully.. where the shadows are.
This is dark. Dark dark.
Dark. It goes so. Behind the couch.. it’s also dark. I’m going to exaggerate things.. because it’s purely about getting a composition done. I need his hat to be dark again. Because what I want to do,
what I want to try. This is where the light comes from.. so I’m going to.. make everything dark.
Because I want the light.. to be the most important thing. This is the stairs, these are the stairs. Dark. And what I see now, is that the girl has this.. On the ground.. there’s this funny shape of the shadow. I can use that, because I need another.. specific thing just to use it.. as a compositional element. Now, this is white in the back. But, because I want this to be the main source of light.. I’m going to make it black. I use it purely to make a composition in such a way.. that we get this feeling of light source. And also the feeling that I’m surrounded by these people. Going to exaggerate things. I’m going to exaggerate the directions. And what I see now.. That’s where this comes in, I need more detailing. Because this guy.. needs some more more detailing. Now he’s looking away. Because you don’t want to lose certain things. He’s looking with one eye to the camera. I forgot the camera!
There it is! It’s black. It’s going too slow. This, this, this. There comes the camera. That’s the guy who’s looking. Now I’m going to put in front.. the stand. And with the tripod.
Tripod. And because, actually the whole camera thing is quite important. I’m going to make this.. a bit darker around it. The couch.
There’s the stand.. of the tripod. I like that form. So there’s another source of light here. So I’m going to use a little bit.. of white which is left over here. But I’m going to make the rest black. And I do that because then.. by making this black,
and just in the middle keeping it light.. you get some attention. And the attention I’ll exaggerate.. by doing this funny structure. Because then you see ‘what is that on the left corner?!’ Your eyes go to this.. it’s trying direct your way of looking at things. Okay, it’s only a sketch.. so I’m going to make some.. This is here, I can use one line.. also to emphasize the girl. So she gets her own line on top of her You see that you’ll have to do it all the way.. because when I stop the line here it doesn’t work. I have to go with the line until the figure. Then the line touches.. your subject and your eyes will go.. to that subject. I made these little lines to get your attention to this guy. I’m almost done with this now. What you see is that.. the trousers have to be.. a little more precise. Gets to catch your attention. This is good.
The only thing is.. he has to get a little more.. little bit darker. So here’s the light there’s the light it goes until here. Light. A bit more shadow. Here here,
Here here. A little bit.. Okay I’ll finish this now. One, because always.. do things until really the bottom.. Of your work. When you put black around it.. It helps.. to make your composition.. really capture it.. within the frame Okay.
The only thing I think now is.. so.. so.. so.. Okay, I’m finished. This was the lesson about composition. I hope you liked it, I did! See you next time.
-Thanks Ruud! And thank you for watching RijksCreative Rembrandt Course. We will be back in a couple of weeks with a new course!

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  1. I'm here for this type of content (the whole series)😊 Fun and really interesting. Love to see techniques from other painters explained as well.

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