Friday, April 15, 2011

Books on Pictorial Composition

Now that I've got the basic idea of how to put paint on paper and how to take a correctly exposed and focused photo, I've been giving this subject of composition a lot of attention, sometimes reading and studying rather than painting and photographing! Not that I will do this for long, but this is important enough to warrant the special focus.

Here are two books on composition that apply to any type of pictorial art. Although they're written with the painter in mind, these principals are just as important in planning and executing a fine art photograph. Composition makes or breaks a painting or photo. No matter how good the application of the paint is or how beautiful the objects in the photo are, the picture will fail without a good composition. 

Pictorial Composition, An Introduction, by Henry Rankin Poore. If you really don't have a clue about the classical rules of composition, this book will help. It's the kind of thing that every serious artist should at least know, even if they choose to ignore it in their work. It certainly helps you understand why some arrangements in a picture work while others clearly don't. I didn't many of the explanations to be all that clear, but by looking at the illustrations and thinking about them, I got the drift. Then I moved on to the next book.

Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting, by Ian Roberts.This is a beautifully done book and includes a 40 minute instructional DVD. ( I couldn't raise the volume on the DVD on my computer, but it probably works fine in a regular DVD player.) Roberts teaches a five-step approach to creating powerful compositions:
  • Choosing good references and create a range of thumbnail designs
  • Identifying the structures at work within a composition based on eight common armatures
  • Using a viewfinder to determine framing and cropping
  • Analyzing color shapes or value, hue, and intensity
  • Directing the eye through the picture plane

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