Compose Yourself

Threshold, black and white

Are you born with it, or can you learn the art of composition?  Just as some people are blessed with a God-given creative talent, I also think it is a skill that most people can learn.  What matters is your own personal vision, and some artists have a really unique way of seeing the world.  Take the tall, thin figures of the Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, for instance.  For me, composing pictures usually takes two basic forms.  I find it helpful, for instance when the drawing comes first, putting a ‘box’ around the most interesting elements, or I start off with a drawn box shape and compose the subject within the space.  I sometimes use an old mount window to isolate the image – I have a drawer full of different sizes, but strips of card or paper work just as well.  What matters is how the forms, lines, marks, lights, darks, etc, behave in relation to the borders.  Think of balance, where have you placed the points of interest?  Is your eye led into the picture? Does the subject hang from the top, run diagonally, or fall out of the space?  Some artists like to make up a viewing window from a piece of card or plastic which has the same effect as looking through the lens of a camera and can be moved around – at arms length – to find the most interesting composition.