Definition Of Composition In Art
Composition in art is the sum of, the putting together, or the organization of art by its elements. Due to this the principle of Harmony plays a direct role in its influence to a Composition.
It is not the subject of the artwork, its theme, nor entirely its overall message.
This general definition and application will apply to many art forms whether it be visual arts, music, dance, or others.
The Layman’s Understanding Composition In Art
I wish to break this concept down into more layman terms for those who will read this. Composition can often be confused with other parts of what makes art what it is.
An example of this confusion is how some relate the subject within art to its composition. There is no direct relationship to this part. A subject can be portrayed with many different compositions.
Nevertheless a composition can impact how the subject is seen. Within life you can have a good day and smile, or a bad day and be sad.
The emotional state of where you are does not alter what you are as the subject.
With this simple understanding we can see how the emotional state can be the present composition for the subject. Your surroundings by environment, objects, influence, or appearance can change.
Who or what you are is the same.
It is for this reason that the elements of art is what influences composition in all its varieties and sizes. Line, color, gradation, shape, form, space, balance and other elements influence these surroundings upon the subject.
How these various elements are put together by organization is what becomes the composition in art. Each aid in building artistic meaning.
What Is The Purpose Of Composition?
The arrangement of what makes composition what it is will influence how art is seen. Concepts such as convergence in art play a critical role within building a composition.
This is more easily understood when looking at different periods of history within art.
Hellenistic Art was among the first to attempt capturing people as they were and how they lived in their natural state. Thus the composition reflected this in their sculptures and painting in that time.
Romanticism on the other hand served the purpose of capturing emotion and at times this was done with some exaggeration. Less focus was given to logic and accuracy. The composition reflected this around its subjects.
Impressionism sought to recreate a scene based upon the artists view of a scene. This was by many artists an attempt to recreate the scene as a photograph.
Yet this too could be exaggerated by emotions to reflect feeling and emotion such as the works of Van Gogh. Here the composition could be flexible as it depended upon the impression of the artist.
The purpose of composition in art is to give meaning, definition, and impact by its arrangement and organization. It is not a single part nor element. Rather is it a collection of elements within the art.
This same principle can be seen in music. A song can be played as it was written to be. It can also be personalized and played with sad overtones, or made to be uplifting.
How the artist collects the elements to create the art will determine its outcome. We must then look into some of the more critical components of what influences composition the most.
Relationship Between Composition In Art And The Message Within Art
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what would the artist wish for the writer to say? If a subject and only the subject is painted within the picture we lack context other than the object of focus.
If the subject is a portrait then it merely is a representational work of the individual. Yet this simple style of painting also contains composition. Its colors, value, and use of space can give an impression.
The more composition which is added will in turn give more context to what an artist wishes to say or be felt. This is controlled by using the elements of art to build the context.
One does not need to add further objects to the art. Rather using simple elements such as color and space can alter the focus of the work and thus its perceived meaning.
The portrait itself is still a portrait with a single object.
Examples of this can be found in many eras of art. Within the mid 20th century monochromatic movement great efforts were made towards this concept.
The artists of this time would use colored canvas to paint geometric shapes of a slightly different value in order to evoke thought. The goal was to require reflection to its meaning.
Complex messages can be built within simple compositions. Deeply emotional messages can be built with more complex compositions.
It will depend upon how the artist chooses to arrange the elements. This ability to choose an arrangement involves artistic expression.
Leading The Viewpoint Has The Greatest Impact On Composition In Art
What holds the greatest impact upon the composition in art? I could list many elements and detail their importance and contributions.
The problem which remains is that each of these are interdependent upon the other.
While we can select one or two elements they are in of themselves merely elements. So then how can you have great impact? It is by leading the viewpoint.
The easiest way to explain this principle is by using an example from photography. If a sheepdog is photographed rescuing a lamb from drowning it can show him as a hero.
Keep in mind context is everything.
The same photographer can also crop the image only showing the sheepdog having the lamb in its mouth. This would give a totally different impression.
Context is lost as to what is happening and the lamb appears to be a victim.
In both images the focal point remains the same. The dog and the lamb are the key focus and main subjects.
Yet what leads the viewpoint is the sum of the composition which tells the story behind what is taking place.
For artists this principle becomes critically important due to the need for context while avoiding distraction. So then what is context and what is distraction?
Context Or Distraction For Composition In Art
With the above example of the sheepdog and the lamb, context was certainly needed to gain the proper viewpoint. Yet there will be times when more artistic content within an image becomes a distraction.
If the desired viewpoint is the object of interest, or the subject alone, then other objects become the distraction. An image to showcase a beautiful car does not need other competing vehicles in the scene.
Within our artwork this becomes important to remember. We can begin to add too much composition or other objects in an attempt to add artistic beauty.
This is counterproductive when a more simple composition is required.
To determine whether or not an element is adding context or is a distraction we must ask if it adds to or takes away from our intended viewpoint.
If an element provides further context to the viewpoint of the composition then it is a welcomed addition. If it distracts then it must be removed from the art.
Relationship Between Balance And Viewpoint In Composition
When one has determined the viewpoint a balance must be achieved. How do these two interact to build the composition in art?
The viewpoint can be thought of as the scope, vantage point, or position from which a viewer experiences the art. Balance is how the elements are presented together from that viewpoint.
Factors which impact balance can be the number of elements or objects which are present, and also the choice of prominence.
Color for example can be selected based upon color theory whether by compliment or by contrast.
Line subtlety or prominence will impact shape or form thus alter perception from the viewpoint. Light or shadows will do the same.
The number of objects whether by compliment and if determined by number also plays a role. Positioning and focus or depth of field impacts a viewer perception.
Altering the balance within a composition can change its meaning drastically even if from the same viewpoint. Each of these two hold a direct relationship to another, yet independently can also alter the outcome of the artwork.
While viewpoint may be the greater influence upon what an artist desires by feeling and meaning within a composition, balance would likely be the second greatest determining factor.
Techniques Of Composition In Art
There are many techniques which artists use to form composition in art. The Rule Of Thirds, Rule Of Odds, and Rule Of Space are examples of these techniques.
Keep in mind these rules are based upon much older concepts within art. While they are called rules I would say they are foundational concepts which an artist should learn.
From here you build off of these to create freely as you need.
The Rule Of Thirds is based upon a much older concept called the Golden Ratio. Essentially it states the prominent or important objects should be spaced within the dividing horizontal and vertical lines which divides them by thirds.
This rule has become far more subjective within modern times, yet the golden ratio still remains as a benchmark within art.
The composition still must be filtered through the artists desire by viewpoint and balance.
The Rule Of Odds simply states that an odd number of objects or subjects is more appealing than even numbers. Within the world of art, decor, and even landscaping this rule has remained as generally true.
This is due to how our eyes are drawn towards objects.
The Rule Of Space directly relates to both viewpoint and balance. Yet with this rule also goes other aspects such as object prominence or if there is a desire for movement and depth of field.
Depth of field can be explained simply. This is altered by a desire to either have only the subject in focus while the background is out of focus, or to allow both subject and background to appear naturally.
Depth of field impacts more than photography. It can play a critical role within composition across many visual arts.
Other Techniques Of Composition In Art
While these elements and principles are critical to the overall composition they are in of themselves not a cornerstone for determining the composition in art.
Rather they are a part of the sum, or the putting together and organization of the art.
While individual elements or principles can be isolated and used as a cornerstone, generally speaking it is not the overreaching rule of thumb.
As there are no defined rules set in stone for art many liberties can be taken. For a young artist who is learning I would say that understanding foundational concepts would come first.
After this moving to more advanced ideas of creation are always welcome.
What Should Determine The Composition Within Art?
All works of art will have composition. It is impossible to avoid it. Nonrepresentational art will itself have composition.
The question becomes how one wishes to approach using this concept. It can be done in a minimalist format, or where an artist wishes to fill it in with shape and color as much as is realistically possible.
Ultimately what must become the determining factor is the artists perspective. Wrapped into this perspective is their viewpoint, emotion, and desire in artistic expression of what they see.
Setting aside the academic definitions this becomes a beautiful thing. What is created through composition is a piece of the artist. It is a part of who they are in that moment of time.
Knowing this it suddenly becomes difficult to quantify outside of academic reasoning. Composition is the notes and cords, the colors and their intensity, the shapes and designs of our life.
The depths which this concept possesses reach into the why of who we are rather than the what. Meaning is found here more at this place than any other within art.