Sonja gave a short presentation on Composition at the CQFA meeting on Feb. 2. Sonja is a really good artist and works very hard to get better. In 15-20 minutes, I learned so much about composition that my head was reeling. I talked about it with a number of people that I know. I was really excited.
First she talked about 8 Common Armatures. I had no idea what this means, but she showed us examples of the different armatures, which are arrangements of art on a page. The 8 are:
- S curve
- O-Frame focal point
- O-Path around
- Horizontals and verticals
Each of the above armatures can have subcategories. I talked a little bit about this in my Design Series post on Balance.
She also told us to work with intention. I took that to mean don’t just slap anything up on the quilt. She said to identify a center of interest and emphasize it, then she told us how.
Most of the class was taken up with Value. This started out to be a problem for me. For some time I have been irritated when people have said “Value does all the work and color gets all the glory.” Mostly, this saying has irritated me because nobody who said it could tell me why. I have ignored that saying since the first time I heard it.
Actually, I haven’t, but I was doing it intuitively and just using contrast. Contrast has a lot more to it than only value. You can review it in the design series episode on contrast.
First, we have to define value and contrast:
Definition of Value: Graduations of light and dark. All colors have an inherent value.
Definition of Contrast: Difference in light and dark. Or light vs dark. (See The Sharpened Artist).
The difference is a mind bender, but there is a difference.
Now we can get on to my epiphany.
In this presentation she talked about value patterns. She showed a diagram of 14 different examples of values in a composition. Each diagram shows 3 rectangles on a larger rectangular surface (presumably the paper or canvas or quilt). Each rectangle is either black, medium gray, light gray or white. In show different arrangements of these rectangles. Sonja showed us a page in Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition. You can see what I am talking about a little bit in the arrangement of rectangles in the example on Jacob Bromeo’s site. You can see how the darker rectangles come forward.
There is a lot more I could say about this class. I have some books from the Library. I have some articles to read. I have some blogs posts to update.
Sonja recommended the following books. I got some of them from the library and am powering my way through them.
- 7 Keys to Great Paintings – this one shows a value chart like the one I discussed above.
- Mastering Composition
- Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition
- Tony Couch’s Keys to Successful Painting
- Watercolor You Can Do It
Sonja does watercolors as well as make quilts. The above list is from her watercolor class, so there are things you have to ignore. The material on composition and value cross over from watercolor to quilts and are relevant.