What makes a good composition?

"Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter's command to express his feelings." - Henri Matisse in "Notes of a Painter."

In the visual arts, composition is the placement or arrangement of the visual elements, such as figures, colours, shapes and so on in a work of art, as distinct from the subject or the style with which it is depicted. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art.

What are the elements of art and design? These elements in the overall design usually relate to each other and to the whole art work to portray the desired meaning and aesthetics.

Line and shape
Lines are optical phenomena that allow the artist to direct the eye of the viewer. The optical illusion of lines do exist in nature and visual arts elements can be arranged to create this illusion. The viewer unconsciously reads near continuous arrangement of different elements and subjects at varying distances.

There are three properties of colour. Hue, brightness or chroma, and value. Hue is simply the name of a colour (red, yellow, and blue, etc.) Brightness and chroma refer to the intensity and strength of the colour. A high chroma colour is more pure and less greyed than a low chroma colour. The lightness and darkness to a colour is the value. Colour also has the ability to work within our emotions. Given that, we can use colour to create mood. It can also be used as tone, pattern, light, movement, symbol, form, harmony, and contrast.

Texture refers to how an object feels or how it looks like it may feel if it were touched. There are two ways we experience texture, physically and optically. Different techniques can be used to create physical texture, which allows qualities of visual art to be seen and felt. This can include surfaces such as metal, sand, and wood. Optical texture is when the illusion of physical texture is created. Photography, paintings, and drawings use visual texture to create a more realistic appearance. 

Lightness and darkness are known as value in visual art. Value deals with how light reflects off objects and how we see it. The more light that is reflected, the higher the value. White is the highest or lightest value while black is the lowest or darkest value. Colours also have value, for example, yellow has a high value while blue and red have a low value. If you take a black and white picture of a colourful scene, all you are left with are the values. This important element of design, especially in painting and drawing, allows the artist to create the illusion of light through value contrast. 

Forms in drawing and painting convey the illusion of three-dimensional form through lighting, shadows, value, and tone. The more contrast in value, the more pronounced the three-dimensional form is. Forms with little value appear flatter than those with greater variation and contrast.

Space is the area around, above, and within an object. Photographers can capture space, architects build space, and painters create space. This element is found in each of the visual arts. It can be positive or negative, open or closed, shallow or deep, and two-dimensional or three-dimensional. In drawing or painting, space is not actually there, but the illusion of it is. Positive space is the subject of the piece. The empty spaces around, above, and within, is negative space


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