I’m off to school tonight – week two of my Composition and Form class at Emily Carr. I was worried it would be too much of a “beginner” class & I might feel self-conscious about introducing myself as a full time artist, but since it’s one of the required classes for me to complete my certificate program, I’ve put it off long enough!
I’m only one class in, but based on the course outline & the homework, I’m going to enjoy it. The teacher is fantastic & the other students are all really friendly. Plus it just feels good to go back to the basics.
A lot of what makes art successful is instinctive. Even absolute beginners without any previous art training know when one picture looks better than another one, regardless of whether or not they can pinpoint the exact reasons why. Our first class had us looking at famous paintings & paying attention to how each one followed the rules of composition, drawing attention to the most important part of the image by using the lightest lights, the darkest darks, lots of negative space, perspective lines & so on. That may sound like a bunch of gobbledygook, but once it’s pointed out to you, it’s impossible NOT to notice.
One of the funniest examples was looking at a slide of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus:
Clearly the woman in the middle of the image is the focal point of the painting. The class is asked to shout out how we know this – what techniques has Botticelli employed to make her the most important part of the painting, the place your eye returns to over & over again? Here’s a list:
- Value – she’s lighter than everything else
- Line – there are several lines pointing towards her (gestures in the arms, the gust of breath being blown towards her by the zephyr)
- Virtual Lines – all eyes are directed at her
- Negative space surrounding her
- Position – smack dab in the center
- the shell serves as a platform, contrasting strongly against the water
Pretty good for our first class, right? We only missed one thing, but it was a pretty major one. I couldn’t help burst out laughing when the teacher said it – she’s NAKED!
Our all female class was completely oblivious. Apparently this is not something often missed when there are males in the classroom. It never even occurred to me!