Composition – know the rules to break the rules

Learning a few basic rules relating to composition is basic to all visual art courses. The same rules apply to different art disciplines, eg. painting, photography, set design, graphic design. When you know the rules you have a foundation for building a layout that ‘works’ and has impact, regardless of your personal style or subject matter.

Once you know the rules you can then break them, but you do so in a conscious and informative way.

I came across this beautiful video showing 9 compositional tips by award winning photographer Steve McCurry. Even if you are an old hand and know the rules, this is such an impressive way to see them demonstrated.

9 photo composition tips

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Creativity in teaching and learning is vital

I firmly believe in inspiring students to be inquisitive and curious in order to develop their creative potential, which in turn leads to the development of good lateral thinking and problem solving skills. I found the following article about creativity in schools very interesting.

Creativity in schools sounds good – so what’s the hitch? by Anne Harris, Senior Lecturer, Creative Arts Education at Monash University.

via Blending aquieterstorm.tumblr.com

curiouser and curiouser … Image via Blending
aquieterstorm.tumblr.com

 

 

 

Cosmigraphics

As a visual learner I found this synopsis of Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time in 4,000 Years of Mapping the Universe by Maria Popova very interesting and would like to share it with you.

I particularly like the thinking that has gone into the development of illustrations that deal with very complex concepts and which aim to convey these to a broad audience. It’s a different way of storytelling though pictures.

image depicting mutliple galaxies

cosmigraphics154 – image depicting mutliple galaxies

 

 

What’s in a face?

Can facial expressions tell others something about the overall character of a person?

What’s interesting is that when we meet someone for the first time, their facial characteristics (eg face shape, eye shape and colour, hair style and colour), and expressions, are of less importance to our brain than noting their race and gender. This is because our brain tries to process a person’s identity first, and race and gender are a strong part of identity.

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macnik write in an article titled What’s in a Face? – The human brain is good at identifying faces, but illusions can fool our “face sense”: “Facial expressions play a key role in our everyday social interactions. Even when watching movies or looking at photographs, we spend most of our time looking at the faces they portray. Our intense focus on faces is at the expense of other potentially interesting information, however.”

“Illusions: What’s in a Face?” is a slide show in the Scientific American Mind Matters series on the neuroscience behind visual illusions. It provides illustrations that demonstrate how our face-detection neural machinery can be fooled or overloaded.

Facial expressions can provide information about a person’s mood, but do not reflect their true inner feelings. Facial expressions used in social interactions, (for example during greetings, social crises or times of appeasement), can be the easiest to read and interpret.

Psychologists have long studied why people find certain faces more attractive than others. If we think that faces with symmetrical features are more attractive than others, why do many portrait artists deliberately exaggerate asymmetrical features? Stylisation such as this appears wrong and unflattering, however it often conveys something more meaningful about the sitter’s personality, mood or character than any flattering representation could.

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (July 12, 1884 – January 24, 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterised by elongation of faces and figures. He died at age 35 in Paris of tubercular meningitis. Here are some of his portraits. They seem deceptively simple in their stylisation, and yet, for me, they express an understanding of the personalities and moods of the sitters.

Woman with Red Hair

Woman with Red Hair

Portrait of a Woman in a Black Tie

Portrait of a Woman in a Black Tie

The Black Dress

The Black Dress

Portrait of Max Jacob

Portrait of Max Jacob

The Boy (detail)

The Boy (detail)

Portrait of Chaim Soutine

Portrait of Chaim Soutine

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Attention to details

Looking at the finer details of objects provides a new perspective and appreciation of their design, colour, texture and form. Here’s a few images that have inspired me.

 

Storytelling from images

Retina_Day_320365_Photographer_Marius-Vieth

Retina | Day 320365. Photographer: Marius-Vieth

Image source

Images are a great way to promote creative thinking. Find a collection of interesting images relating to a theme and then ask your students to study them, choose one or more of them, and then write a short story about what they think might be happening to the characters in them.

If you have chosen interesting images to start with the students may surprise you in their interpretations. You can then use their stories to promote meaningful discussions relating to your specific subject or workplace situation.

If you are prepared to be adventurous, don’t choose images that are targeted to a specific learning outcome or skill. To get the best results choose a theme that has no evident connection with your subject. This may sound frivolous, but if you really want to engage your students in a creative way give it a go.

As an example, look at these images:  http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/street-photography

Resulting stories from these images may revolve around:

  • appearances can be deceiving
  • some things can be overlooked
  • what’s in the detail is important
  • big versus small

Your challenge would then be to direct any resulting discussion from the students’ stories/themes back to the workplace or current subject area you are dealing with.

POSTSCRIPT: the images on this url change regularly, so what you see today may not be there next week – but the new ones will be equally interesting.

Metaphor again

I came across the work of illustrator, John Holcroft today and was impressed by the metaphorical strength of his images. I’m sure these images would initiate a lively discussion, theme, project, etc. in the classroom. The captions are not the titles of John’s work. You can read more about the context of his work and see more illustrations here.

You are what you eat

You are what you eat

Trapped within

Trapped within

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Growing roots

Growing roots

London Subway

London Subway

TV overload

TV overload

The brain is slow to get going in the mornings

The brain is slow to get going in the mornings

What is a metaphor?

According to Buzzle “A metaphor is a substitution of an actual thing with its symbolism. For example, the famous line by Shakespeare – “All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players”, is an example of a metaphor where he substitutes the world with a stage and people with actors, playing their part. Not only is this a profound metaphor that connects the similarities between acting on stage and living life, but it also conveys what the author is trying to say, quite aptly. Thus, metaphors help grasp the real idea, by planting a similar symbolic idea in its place.”

There may be confusion between what is a metaphor and a simile. According to Buzzle “The prime difference between a simile and a metaphor is that while the former only compares the similarities between two entities, the latter goes so far as to equate two similar ideas. The sentence – ‘He was like a lion in the field’ is an example of a simile, but the same sentence when composed as – ‘He was a lion in the field’ becomes a metaphor. In the second sentence, the man is not just compared but equated with a lion for literary effect. Metaphor is substituting the symbolic similarity with the actual idea, while similes stop at identifying the similarity. Ergo, metaphors are much more powerful and potent tools in the hands of good writers as they can convey greater truths symbolically, without explicitly stating them.” Read more at Buzzle.

What makes an image memorable?

According to research by Aude Oliva, Phillip Isola, Aditya Khosla and Wilma Bainbridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, people across a diverse population, despite their various experiences, tend to remember and forget the same images. On the whole, they found that images of people or central objects are the most memorable, whereas landscapes are among the most forgettable.

“Using experimental data detailing the types of images people remember or quickly forget, we developed an algorithm that automatically predicts whether an image will be memorable. The algorithm correctly identified images with people as most memorable, indoor scenes and large objects as slightly less memorable, and outdoor landscapes as the least memorable. We also found that atypicality and aesthetic beauty attributes did not explain much of the variation we observed in scene memorability. For instance, landscapes—despite being beautiful—were often forgotten, whereas generic photos of social scenes—for example, a dinner party, subway car, office—were almost always remembered.”

This information can help teachers to use images effectively. For example, selection of memorable diagrams, cartoons and images to illustrate concepts will make learning easier, particularly when students need to remember important information.

Photographer, David Peterson says “There are a few factors that can almost guarantee a memorable photo, and they all boil down to one thing: emotion. Which is probably why it is so tough to create a memorable landscape photo; while landscapes can certainly evoke feelings of peace and awe, they don’t often have that same raw, intense emotion that a photo of a person can have.”

He cites Raising the flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal, Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry and Lunch Atop a Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets as memorable images, and asks “can you put your finger on what it is that makes them so unforgettable?”

Joe Rosenthal: Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, 1945

Joe Rosenthal: Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, 1945

Steve McCurry-Afghan Girl-1984

Steve McCurry: Afghan Girl, 1984

Lunch atop a skyscraper, c1932

Lunch atop a skyscraper, c1932

Here’s some images (and photographers) I find memorable:

Max Dupain: Sunbather, 1935

Max Dupain: Sunbather, 1935

Eve Arnold: Marilyn Monroe, 1955

Eve Arnold: Marilyn Monroe, 1955

Henri Cartier-Bresson: gare

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Paris, 1930’s

Annie Leibovitz: John and Yoko

Annie Leibovitz: John and Yoko

and as for painters, many of Matisse’s works are memorable for me.

Henri Matisse: Dance, 1910

Henri Matisse: Dance, 1910

Iconography

Today I thought I would look at iconography, and in particular how we can identify and appreciate different symbols in our natural environment. Trying to find some iconic symbols in nature is a great way to help us look at the finer details in the world around us. You will be amazed at what you can find. The spiral is one shape that seems to be endlessly repeated. I’ve collected a few examples of spirals and radials in nature as well as some natural and manmade collaborations.

I’ve also included some other iconic images from the art world.

(Iconography – visual images and symbols used in a work of art or the study or interpretation of these.

• the visual images, symbols, or modes of representation collectively associated with a person, cult, or movement: the iconography of pop culture.)

Spiral within a leaf

Spiral within a leaf – by maldoit

Radial

Radial – from butdoesitfloat.com

Manmade and nature working together

Manmade and nature working together – from art.com

A slice of citrus fruit can look like a stained glass window

A slice of citrus fruit can look like a stained glass window – from ffffound.com

Fern frond

Fern frond – from green-home.tumblr.com

Ammonite

Ammonite – by unusualfocus

Sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy works with nature to create symbolic objects

Sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy works with nature to create symbolic objects

Andy Goldsworthy creates transitory images from the natural environment

Andy Goldsworthy also creates transitory images from the natural environment

Dahlia sunburst

Dahlia sunburst

Spirals from long ago

Spirals from long ago – from thefossilstore.com

Memorable images become iconic

Memorable images become iconic – Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a pearl earring

An easily recognisable icon

Andy Warhole’s Mick Jagger

We can use symbols for fun in our urban environment

We can use symbols for fun in our urban environment – in Valparaiso, Chile – by streetartutopia.com

We use symbols in art

We use symbols in art – work by Lea Woodpecker

You can create symbols from obscure objects

We create symbols from obscure objects – wooden spoons from artwhatson.com.au

All images via

Colour Moods

I love colour, most of all when a group of colours work together to create a certain mood or ambience. Sometimes I need a colour palette that jumps boldly out and says “Look at me … I am fabulous!” Other times I need a colour palette that is less demanding, but still appealing, interesting and mood setting. How do I go about creating colour palettes for different needs?

Colour palette inspiration is all around us; we just need to look at our environment – both natural and man-made to find beautiful colour combinations that we can utilise for different themes or purposes.  There are times for “look at me” colour palettes, and times for something less bravado.

Today I’m focusing on a subtle colour palette; one that can evoke a sense of sophistication and serenity. I don’t want “boring” but I do want “ethereal”, “calmness” and “cohesiveness”. I call this a “soft palette”. The images below display a broad range of hues, but a delicate range of tones.  They are drawn from a range of sources.

Artichoke palette

Artichoke palette

Beautiful geometry

Beautiful geometry

Eggs in nest

Eggs in nest

Eucalyptus leaves

Eucalyptus leaves

Faded colours

Faded colours

Fungi

Fungi

Glazed hues

Glazed hues

Ibaraki ceramics

Ibaraki ceramics

Tray of jasper trials, ca. 1773-76, from Josiah Wedgwood's manufacture.

Tray of jasper trials, ca. 1773-76, from Josiah Wedgwood’s manufacture.

Rusty stuff

Rusty stuff

Sea Glass

Sea Glass

Soft texture

Soft texture

Sunlit Poppies

Sunlit Poppies

Tea Rose sketch and palette

Tea Rose sketch and palette

Teabag bundles

Teabag bundles

Soft colours

Soft colours

Vintage gas cans

Vintage gas cans

All images via