The painting I'm starting today follows on nicely from my previous entry; I've recently been following Sarah's site, seeing how one of her paintings comes into being, and she raised some interesting points about composition. This is something I've never given much thought to, but decided to try out for myself.
I am starting a new 3/4 length self portrait showing me painting in my studio. My canvas size is 24" by 30", a size I've never worked on before, but I'm in an ambitious mood, and I have a very good feeling about this one.
So, I start off arranging the canvas and mirror (this is harder than it sounds, but boring to read, so I won't go into detail). Then I grab a sketch book and draw a rectangle the same proportions as the final canvas, only smaller. I look and I draw, and I have a first draft.
Now, to follow Sarah's rules (or guidelines... you know what I mean);
1. Check the flow- where are the lines leading the eye?
Well, here my arm and brush are leading the eye across and out of the painting. Is this what I want? Hmm?
2. The rule of thirds - divide the painting into thirds, and the 'hot'spots' are where the lines intersect. This is where the action should be.
Damn. I'm slap bang in the middle, making the arrangement static. The upper 'hot spots' are the wall behind me, the other misses my head completely.
So I bring the canvas I'm painting on into the painting itself which gives a good balance of weight between myself on the right, and the canvas on the left, with my arm connecting the two in a lovely triangle (a very Renaissance trick). On the 'hot spots' are my face, the end of the paintbrush, the intersection of my arm with the canvas, and (almost) my elbow. I am very happy with this arrangement.
3. Pretend it's a lanscape - where's the horizon - what's in the distance, middle, and foregound and does this work? Well, maybe I'm a large neolithic rock and there a building next to me. The sky fills 2/3rds of the canvas behind and the horizon is suggested by the bench along the back wall. This drawing shows that I'm keeping it simple, and reminds me not to make the backgound too 'busy'.
4. Light & dark - the contrast between areas of light and dark are going to be important in this painting, so I rough in the shadows to see what shapes they create, and to see what the balance is. Well, the shadows slim me down, as I was looking rather bulky, and I can blur where my body stops and the background starts, playing round with that. I'm still a little concerned about the empty space behind my back, so I may shift myself to the right slightly, leaving only a suggestion of the horizon behind the small of my back. I think that so long as my hood touches the edge of the canvas I'll be okay.
Well, speak now, or ferever hold thy peace, because I'll start the painting in the next few days.