Successfully Combining Composition Design

The "L" and three spot compositions were used to create this abstracted landscape painting. Using 1-3, or more designs, for composition add complexity to artworks


The notan below and washed in version of this painting clearly show the "L" or elle shaped composition. The "L" is on its side with the long part running across the upper part of the top third of the page composition; one could call it the skyline. The shorter leg of the "L" runs vertically down the left third of the composition.


While the sketch shows hints of the three spots, it doesn't emphasis the three spots as the finished work does. In fact, the three spots didn't even come to mind until after the painting was 60-70 percent completed. They came into being out of necessity to create more depth by changing the values (saturation) of the lighter areas in the composition. I had a choice to keep the light as a single vertical plane, or move the eye back into space by changing the intensity of the values (saturation). Buy having the more saturated oranges and yellows in the foreground, they come forward. The lighter, less saturated colors move the eye back into the space. The addition of violets along what could be a distant row of trees, also helps create dimension.

Establishing Light to Dark Ratios


The notan above shows darks and lights. They became more defined in the early stages of the painting as I blocked in the color image below. The image below has about 50 percent very dark, 25 percent medium tones and 25 percent very light. There are basically only three values to the blocked in version. As the artist, I know I will expand middle tones into the lighter tones and reduce their percentage by the time I am done, so for a start, the above ratios are a starting point only. My aim is to have about 10 values from light to dark.


Those are good ratios for an unfinished work. Ultimately my goal is to have about 80 percent dark, 15 percent middle tones, and five percent highlights in a normal range image. This ratio varies depending on what artist/author you read or study. Bottom line, no matter who you read or follow, the contrasts between light and dark must exist and if they are 80 percent light to dark (a high-key subject), or 80 percent dark to light, there is a greater chance of success when done.




Three Spot and Elle Design Compositions

The combination of design, even in this abstracted landscape, gives this work more depth. As I said above, making the eye move back into space, and not just around the 2-D picture plane gives this painting more complex composition. The three-spot design added to the elle makes the viewer see more complexity and subtle colors than if I had only kept the eye moving on the surface with the original elle shape design.

What I learned

  • I have studied the basic designs enough to add more than one to a composition

  • I still have about 10 basic designs I must explore and can't expect to combine them until I learn them

  • I must not only think of design, compositions being used, but adapt as the painting progresses

  • I must keep in mind the ratio of light to darks;


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Avon Waters
Modern Artist