Painting, Composition influence and importance


A well-composed painting will help invite the viewer and help communicate the artist’s statement.

What is composition

  • It is the arrangement or “layout” of visual objects within the artwork,
  • it is where you put the objects,
  • it is the way you as the artist, choose to arrange the objects.
  • Composition affects the way the viewer experience the artwork,
  • it helps to draw the eye in to the artwork,
  • and helps with depth.

Elements of composition in the art (visual tools)

  • Lines – enable the eye to move in following the lines.
    • Lines are much more than the outline of objects in your paintings.
    • They do not need to be solid.
    • If a subject is pointing to someplace, the eye will follow the line of the arm/leg.
    • Lines in the sky will lead the eye through the whole painting.
    • Shapes and colors can create lines.
  • Shapes/Forms/Proportion
    • Spirals, triangles, circles, curves, zigzags, circles.
    • Shadows are “abstract” shapes/forms and,
    • trees are “physical” objects.
    • Look at how the shape/form looks like not what the shape or form is. For example a ball: look at the roundness of the ball, not at the ball itself.
  • Color – different hues.
    • Color affects everything around us.
    • Hot and cold are experienced as “red” and “white”.
    • Colors can be used to balance, create movement in, and harmonize a painting.
    • Color attracts attention.
  • Texture – surface.
  • Space – space that is taken up by objects (positive) and space that is taken up between objects (negative).
  • Value – how light or dark the object is.
    • white is the lightest value and, black is the darkest value.
    • Where two shapes of the same value cross, the edges disappear.
  • Tone – not pure hue.
  • Depth – to create depth use proportion,
    • shading,
    • overlapping,
    • position.

What can help when using elements (principles – how we use the visual tools/elements)

  • Balance – balance the elements.
    • Maintain the balance making sure the visual weight is the same on both sides.
    • Balance determines how pleasing a work of art can be.
    • Balance helps with harmony and,
    • keeps the viewer drawn in the artwork.
    • Example: the horizon line should not divide the artwork into two equal parts.
  • Direction – the path that the viewer’s eye will follow.
  • Negative space/White space – it is anything that is not a subject. Not two must be the same – spaces between objects should vary in shape and size.
  • Focus point – create a focal point, it grabs the viewer’s attention. For example a bigger object in front and a smaller object towards the back in a painting.
  • Contrast – smaller contrast elements have much more impact than large elements.
    • Contrast is created when there are conflicting elements in an artwork.
  • Scale.
  • Uneven numbers – use own uneven number of objects.
  • Rhythm/movement – is about using similarly shaped objects to lead the eye from one object to another.
  • Variety – is visually interesting due to the use of different forms and types of objects.
  • Unity – unity strives to find overall stability.
  • The rule of thirds – is a simplification of golden mean which is a ratio meaning,
    • to ensure the focal point of your artwork is not directly in the center,
    • cutting the scene into thirds both ways  – you will end up with nine sections.
  • Pattern
  • Use types of composition
    • L-Shape: dividing the canvas into two unequal parts. The line can be horizontal or vertical.
    • S-Shape: create a winding line. You can use the S-Shape to direct attention to the focus of the composition.
    • Diagonals: create a strong composition and tension.
    • Grouping: use clustered items to add weight to composition.
    • Lines: guide the eyes to the focal point and hold them for a while.

To conclude

  • If you pay attention to detail and composition is lousy the painting will not look right.
  • A strong composition should get the eye to continuously move from one place to the next.
  • Avoid placing the main object in the middle/center of the canvas.
  • Let the composition surprise the viewer.
  • Every part of the artwork is important. All parts should work together and “communicate”.


  • no rules in art must be so strict that you do not follow your own thoughts and ideas.
  • Rules are guidelines or suggestions to create your own artwork.
  • Creative imagination is the most important tool for a successful composition.

Have a nice day!


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