Composition Fundamentals for Art and Design - Create Engaging and Dynamic Visuals | Shellie Cleaver | Skillshare

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Composition Fundamentals for Art and Design - Create Engaging and Dynamic Visuals

teacher avatar Shellie Cleaver, Visual art + academic writing classes

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

18 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Composition Fundamentals Introduction

    • 2. Brief Teacher Introduction

    • 3. Edge Boundaries

    • 4. Functions of Composition

    • 5. 1 Size

    • 6. 2 Shape

    • 7. 3 Variety

    • 8. 4 Line

    • 9. 5 Detail

    • 10. 6 Colour

    • 11. 7 Tone

    • 12. 8 Texture

    • 13. Classical Guides

    • 14. Theory of 3 Bees

    • 15. Your Project

    • 16. Composition Project Demonstrations

    • 17. Thanks Composition Fundamentals

    • 18. Full Teacher Introduction

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About This Class

Join Australian artist Shellie Cleaver for this 36 minute class on the fundamentals of composition. 

Improve your visual work by better understanding how composition functions, what it does, how it affects the viewer, and the main compositional elements you need to know about.

This class will arm you with the knowledge you need to improve your compositions and make your images more engaging and compelling.

Meet Your Teacher

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Shellie Cleaver

Visual art + academic writing classes


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1. Composition Fundamentals Introduction: hello and welcome to composition basics. I'm excited to bring this class because composition is fundamental to all aspects or visual work, design, work, anything we're creating. An image composition is really at the core of what makes a successful visual pace, so you might have poor technique. But if you have good quality composition, the artwork is likely to be successful. But if it's the other way around and you have a highly skilled artists, but they called position is terrible that painting or design is never going to be successful. So this class about explore how composition works, what it does with the elements of composition are and then actually, how they function in the constraints off a page or canvas, so that you can actually play around with these elements and learn how to create dynamic compositions that engaged the viewer, take their eye through the image, and by doing that, you maintain their attention for your project will be playing around with some basic shapes and seeing what happens when you put them in different placements just to gain some understanding and hands on experience. In actually composing, Let's get started 2. Brief Teacher Introduction: so from a creativity is central to what I do. It really feeds. May I think creativity is vital to our well being and is worth pursuing and is worth investing time in. My name is Shelly. I'm a Sydney based artist, Andi. I work across many mediums. I studied oil painting at the National at School in Sydney. It was a beautiful sandstone jail with a very traditional Italian based structure, so we learned drawing every stage of education. By taking these classes step by step, you'll build your skills, your knowledge and also you experience and confidence. And that's the thing that's worth pursuing, because in the end, you're an artistic practice could really sustain you and sustain your life. So I really hope that these classes help you on your creative journey. And they make doing these creative activities less scary and give you some confidence to move forward in your in practice. Thanks for stopping by. I really hurt my classes of helpful for you. You might even say my to studio assistants Ali and Millie in some of the classes 3. Edge Boundaries: edge boundaries is a fundamental aspect of composition. By edge, boundaries remain the edges of the canvas that you're creating your composition within. If you think about the variations that they convey with canvas, it could be a really long rectangle. It could be square. It could be oval or circular. The proportion off the shape that you're working within for your artwork really impacts your composition. So it's actually something you need to think about as you plan the composition of your next work. Because if you want a certain subject or you want to achieve a certain mood or a certain look, considering the shape of the canvas that you work on is really central. If you have a look throughout, history will say there are some beautiful paintings at a very tall and skinny. I'm thinking off from the pre Raphaelite period. You know of a tall, elegant figure holding a vase above her head with water pouring out of it, and this tall, skinny can. This is an incredibly unusual shape, but for the composition the artist was working on, it's perfect. So give some thought to the shape of your canvas. It's sometimes fun to work with square canvas and then to try a rectangle and just to get a sense of how that impacts your own work. 4. Functions of Composition: functions of composition. Composition is actually a functional active part off visual arts. The function of composition is actually to guard the eye of the viewer through the image. It gives the artists and opportunity to direct the viewer to a particular part off their image. It also gives them opportunities to start the viewer in one part of the painting and lead there. I threw it, taking the viewer on a journey through that painting or image composition also functions to stop the view of falling off the edge of the painting. So if you imagine that in the West week, we read from left to right and you might look at a painting on its left edge. First composition will lead your eye from the left, usually across the length of the painting, toward the right, And if you look at most artworks, it should have some element within that painting. That then leads the I back toward the left of the painting again because otherwise you would simply fall off the edge if there wasn't part off the composition that actually took your interest back into the painting. This photograph is a good example. This arrow shows you that you start looking at the left. You're brought across the top of the painting with the lines in that wall. The curve of that wheel of the bicycle brings you back into the painting, and then the shadow of the bike brings you back to the left, and that little David in the in the road brings you back here and then up where that dark line follows back to where you started. This is a very satisfactory composition because you're not falling off the edge and it's a circular motion and it keeps the viewer engaged while they're looking at it. 5. 1 Size: the first element of composition we're going to consider is size. Imagine a painting where there were a number of objects and they're all exactly the same size. This would not be very interesting for the viewer to look at. So variation in size is a vital part on one of the key aspects, often interesting composition. In this picture, this landscape photograph, we have the dominant big size of the mountain in the background, and then we have the smaller detail of the trees in the foreground and the details of the road and the snow on the side of the road. This is a good example of variation in size within a composition. So this is another example in this photograph. It's quite an interesting image to look at, and part of the reason that it is interesting is the variation in size of the elements. So we have the tall palm trees against the short figure and the cars. We have the large factory in the background against the smaller cars in the foreground. Then we have smaller details off the windows and the detail ing in the roof and the lines on the road. So all of these variations in size create interest in our composition. It would be interesting for you to try to keep size and variation of size in mind for your next artwork and when your next composing a photograph or a painting or an illustration, and just to say what impact that has on how compelling your composition actually is. 6. 2 Shape: variation in shape is another essential part of an interesting composition. In this image of the three light globes weaken, see variation in the shape. So this is something to keep in mind with your own compositions. You don't want to have an image filled with all round objects or all square objects. You need a combination of different shapes to actually create interest and tension, and ah, a dynamic quality within your composition. In this image, we have the contrast of the round cup and salsa, with the square phone sitting next to it and the sharp lines off the hexagonal desk or little table that they're sitting upon. This photograph is a stark example off variation in shape, with the straight lines of the tall building and the round curvature of the off the building that the photographer is standing within. This creates a very interesting image. Imagine if, instead of the curved line we were looking at a square line and that square building against it, it wouldn't be anywhere near is interesting or compelling 7. 3 Variety: variety within a composition in all aspects of what makes a composition, work, shape, line, tone, color. It's vital to create interest and to keep the viewer looking at that image, and I've already mentioned it in previous elements in this class. We can see in this image of the three pairs the very similar in shape. There's very little variety, and this image wouldn't hold a viewer's interest long term. The lack of variety can be seen in this image, with a series of round coffee cups placed on a round table. Variety is very clearly illustrated in this photograph of pebbles, of varying sizes and shapes. The variety is essential. Imagine if this image was simply of pebbles of very similar sizes and shapes. It wouldn't be anywhere near is interesting. The same goes to this photograph of the fruit. If it was all oranges, it would be quite a different image. But with the different shapes of bananas and lemons and the variety of color and shape it makes for unengaged ing photograph that will maintain the viewer's interest 8. 4 Line: line is a really interesting part of composition because it can actually direct the viewer's eye. It's a it's a lion. You can actually physically lead a person through an image with line. So thinking about your artwork were illustrations, and how you're going to integrate line into those images is really important for a dynamic composition you can clearly see in this photograph of a train platform. How key line is to this image and how it draws the viewer's. I'd right back to that point on the horizon and creates this dynamic quality. It's also really clear in this photograph, with the sharp lines and the curved lines weaving their way through the composition and drawing the viewer's eye through that image. In this landscape photograph, the artist uses the curving line of the road to lead the viewer through the landscape and toward the mountains at the back 9. 5 Detail: detail is a really interesting aspect off composition. As an artist, you make decisions about how much detail you will put in to certain areas off your work. Some people create hyper realistic paintings and images that a detailed across the entire surface, where others might choose to put detail in the areas that they want the viewer to focus on while leaving other areas with detail lacking or missing. And that helps to actually really focus of you on the aspects of the painting you want them to look at. It's a very powerful tool on Once you know about it. As an artist, you can use it strategically to achieve the impact that you want your work tohave in this photograph, usually a face, would be the most compelling part of an image. But because the detail is focused on the brim off the cap, that's what the viewer looks at the faces in soft focus and lacks the intense, clear detail in that rim. And so it really tells the viewer what to look at and effects, um, the experience the viewer has when looking at that image. Same can be seen in this image where the hyper up close detail of the rope draws the viewer's eye. But the background off the room in which this rope object sits is obscured because it's out of focus. There is no detail, so the viewer can't actually tell very clearly what room this is in. This image is all about the rope in this example. Although the woman and her face air in the foreground because they're out of focus and lack detail, the viewer is actually drawn to the lines of the building in the background and the umbrella and the bits of the other figure that we can see behind further behind her. This is a very interesting use of detail, and it is clearly directing the viewer toward what the artist wants them to be looking at. 10. 6 Colour: color is a key aspect of composition, and an artist has many decisions to make about how they use color in their composition. To achieve the impact that they want, you can choose primary bright colors to draw the viewer's eye. You can use pared down colors, so just one color to really create impact and director viewers, I you can choose monochrome with no color. You can also just use two main colors, like in this photograph, a landscape which really is made up of blues and yellows. You may choose to use subtle shades of color to really create a sensitive, gentle impact with your work. Or you might choose to use bold, bright colors because you want your work to be energized and catchy and and dazzling. This photograph shows a really beautiful use of color there, some strong deep greens and reds and oranges in there. But there's also subtlety within the sky and within the ground in the mountains. You can also use color to really highlight one aspect of an image, like with this landscape, with the sunrise really highlighting those figures that are silhouetted upon the hill. If you can master the use of color in your compositions, you're going a long way toward creating compelling images 11. 7 Tone: tone is an important aspect to consider for your compositions. It's how much light or dark there is within your image and the variation between the light and dark. In this photograph, we can see that it's quite tonally subdued. The tones within that image are all around the same darkness. You can use this in your composition, but you may prefer to have a contrast and highly contrast in tone, and that creates a popping image that might draw the viewer in. Both can be used effectively, and it depends on your style and the mood of your image and what you're trying to convey to the viewer. But considering your turn is a new, important part when designing your composition. 12. 8 Texture: texture is another element that artists used to build their composition and how they work communicates with the viewer. You can have perfectly polished smooth paintings with no texture. It'll we can have have highly textured, very physical painted surfaces, and these will impact the viewer differently. You could have highly textured areas within a work which would draw the viewer's eye to that place. Or you could have highly polished seamlessly perfect surfaces that would achieve the same. And having a contrast might be something that will work within your artistic practice. So consideration off the surfaces off the objects that you're painting or the nature of them medium that you're using. So pastoral has a different texture to an oil paint or graphite pencil has a very different texture. Tone ink, so consideration of the things you are painting or creating images off and their texture, but also the texture off the art medium that you're using 13. Classical Guides: there is a history to composition that stems right back to the Renaissance. Here we see the spiral of a snail's shell. Fibonacci spiral is something that a shape that is found within nature and that also is found within paintings. And you can actually draw this shape across an image, and you'll often find that elements of the composition fall upon those lines. Another classical guide to composition is three Golden Mane, which has the most pleasing proportions of a rectangle. And then you can actually extend that within the rectangle, and that can help director composition. Other artists work with the concept of halves, thirds quarters, fifths and sixths as lines that you can actually draw across your composition and elements within your composition are likely to fall upon those lines. A composition is likely to be stronger if it actually fits within these really fundamental dynamics off composition and proportion. If you look at some historical paintings and artworks and you actually draw the half quarter, 3rd 5th and sixths lions across them on tracing paper, it's really interesting to see how key elements of the painting fit on those lines. Almost exactly so in awareness of this will help you and your designing your compositions. It will make you think about your placement off objects and and to think about the proportions that fall within your composition. All of these tools give you more options with your work and hopefully will enable you to improve your compositions to engage your audience for longer while they're looking at your work. 14. Theory of 3 Bees: When I studied it at school, one teacher said to me, Imagine there are three bees on your canvas That is enough for you to work with in terms of planning compositions. Having three elements and moving them around and trying different locations for them is enough to keep you working on composition. Because you can place the basil together, you can have one further away. You can have so many variations with three elements that it really is a good starting point when you're exploring composition. Sometimes having limitations like that helps you to explore an aspect off your practice more deeply. 15. Your Project: so your project for this class is to get a piece of a four paper could be a three if you like, draw some rectangles from different shaped canvases at such onto the paper, and then stop playing with elements of composition that this could be abstract and just shapes and lines and turn and just start to scribble. It's really doodling, but just start to play with what you can do within a rectangle. How impacts your work If, if you're working within a square shape what you could do with a long, skinny rectangle by doing these kind of just preparatory drawings, little sketches and doodles, you're really starting to engage with the idea of what composition is and what elements. Actually, informant. And you'll see after you do a couple of pages of this. That some of them really stand out to you is something that's very interesting, and it might lead you to a new artwork or a new composition. So please share your sketches on the class page. I'd love to see what you've done 16. Composition Project Demonstrations: So one of the best ways to show what I'm teaching you in this class is to actually demonstrate some things. So let's look at edge boundaries. I want to talk about EJ boundaries. I mean the edges that go around the format that you're working on, whether that be in your computer screen, whether that baby edges of the canvas, whether that be the edges of the paper. Now these materials come in different formats. Summer square, summer rectangle. Some are long skinny rectangles. Some canvases are oval shaped or circular. All of these differences have a massive impact on the composition and how the elements within those ed edge boundaries actually operate and function together. So when you're selecting what to work on, consider what format you're using. So for this project, draw up a page with some rectangles on them and use these as a way to actually play with various elements of composition. So if we start with size, I'm going to put these small circular shapes and then a largest circular shape, and the placement of these within the rectangle will impact the composition. Whether the composition will have tension, whether it will be dynamic If I do circles all the same size across the rectangle, it will have a very different impact or feeling, then one which has varying sizes. So this demonstrates just how powerful the compositional element of size is. By doing this exercise, you will gain insight into how you can use size to improve your work and make your work more compelling. In this example, I've got a tiny circle surrounded by large circles, and you can see how the tension in that image is different to the other. Other, too, is inventive as she can be with these exercises. Just don't worry too much and let your imagination flow as you play with different ways of using different sized objects within your compositional rectangle. Now let's look at the compositional elements variety. This could be variety in anything, so a variety in shape, direction, tone, color, texture. Let's look at shape because that's a good, simple example. So within my rectangle, I'm going to put in a variety of different shapes. Now let's see what happens if I use the same shape in this composition, but what I vary is their size, so I've got rectangle or square shapes here, and I'm going to vary their size. Let's see what happens if I use a variety of different lines and textures in my composition . So I've got a curved line. I've got a few hashed straight lines. I'll put a circle straight, lot edged or straight line triangle through that curve shape. You can see how this variety and these dots are now really adding some complexity and difference to my composition. Now let's see what happens if I use variety in tone. So I've now got a black colored in triangle with a clear circle and a squiggly line that has lots of movement and life to it. You can see how your choices around variety really do impact your composition and the dynamic quality off your artwork. So playing with these examples in the project really expand your vocabulary and make you feel more confident in exploring difference in your work line is a key element in drawing, particularly but also painting and other art mediums. So let's consider how variety in line can actually enhance your artworks in this compositional box. On putting a straight line, a softly curving line, a line that undulates like a wave formation. Now I'm going to change my brush tool so that it operates more like a brush with ink on it so I can get some fix and things to play with, because when you're drawing part of your power with line drawing is how you control the fix and the thins in your work. If you look at a Rembrandt drawing, he masterfully controls the fix in the Thins, and it makes his drawings very compelling. So in the third composition box, let's play with some straight small lines close to each other. Bassam longer sweeping lines close together, covered with a hash line across it. You were creating different textures with line by layering them. Now let's look a detail and how the level of detail that we put into an image can impact the composition. You can have big, simple shapes of very little detail where you can have highly articulated images with incredible levels of data and whatever variant each use of this really does impact your composition and how your viewer interacts with and reads your image. So on the left, I've got a rectangle in a circle and on the right. I have the same rectangle and circle, but I'm heading detail. This is so I can explore what difference the detail makes to the image and how I is the viewer interact with it. Turn is another compositional element that we need to consider in art. Making turn is the docks and the lots. So I am lightning off my color here from black to varying shades of gray through making my paintbrush more transparent. This is a bit like working with ink and how much water you add to the ink by playing with marks of varying turn. I'm going to explore the impact it has to have the dark darks and very subtle lights. - Now for the theory of three bays. This is a theory that an art teacher explained to May as a method off simplifying ideas around composition. The idea waas that if you simply had three bays on a canvas, the placement of those three bays was critical and would transform the composition depending on the choices that you made. So for this project, in your different rectangles for your compositions, play around with placing three dots or bees or any three marks in different places around that rectangle and you start to see how how close are or how far apart they are really impacts the attention within that image. This is really valuable knowledge to have to use in your work to make it more compelling. 17. Thanks Composition Fundamentals: thank you for joining me on this class on composition. Our hope. It has explained some of the basic elements and how it works and is giving you a starting point to start improving the composition of your work. Hopefully, you'll say, the dynamic, engaging quality of your visual work improved exponentially with the tools and understanding gained from our class. We'll see you next time. Uh, I've made lots of classes on painting and drawing and watercolors, color theory, endless classes for you to take, and you'll find that each one you do your skills will develop and grow. So let's have a look at how to follow me on school Share. Here is the full I button. Click on this, and if you hover your mouse over this part here, it'll take you through to my profile as well. Under my prayerful, you'll see all of the classes I've created, and you'll be able to see the range of classes you could take. So here are highlight. A couple of my art classes color mixing basics for absolute beginners. Copying the masters with Shelly. Learn to paint. Watch me work. Embrace fear in the creative process. Begin is charcoal drawing how to paint gloss and beginners figure drawing gesture. I'm creating new outclasses all the time on. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to support you as you develop your own creative skills and make your way on your own creative journey. So let's start making stuff. 18. Full Teacher Introduction: so from a creativity is central to what I do. It really feeds. May I think creativity is vital to our well being and is worth pursuing and is worth investing. Timing. My name is Shelly. I'm a Sydney based artist, Andi. I work across many mediums. I studied oil painting at the National at School in Sydney. It was a beautiful sandstone jail with a very traditional Italian based structure. So we learn drawing every stage of education I love to make. I love cooking of music. I think that I love about school Share is the opportunity it offers for me to share my skills with people. I've studied so many things, and I tried so many different creative and artistic disciplines on projects that this opportunity to share my skills to encourage others it really means a lot to me. So the tree quit building and creative practices to actually build up of routine and to have a space that's dedicated to your creative work. If possible, it's hard to develop a practice and really, if you can make it daily, you will see the most progress. You'll also find it, gain confidence and move forward far more effectively than if you do something one day and then don't touch it for another few months. My family believe that artistic and creative skill doesn't come down to talent, Sheldon said. Once that you can't know the talent of a man or one until they've actually put in many, many hours of practice and work on. That's when talent is revealed. My family related Everyone come on creative skills, and everyone can develop a creative ability that's not easy to achieve. But it's worth trying to actually building to every day that space where you can be creative with.