Developing an Eye for Landscape Composition (Part 1 of 3) | Jill Poyerd | Skillshare

Developing an Eye for Landscape Composition (Part 1 of 3)

Jill Poyerd, Professional Fine Artist & Educator

Developing an Eye for Landscape Composition (Part 1 of 3)

Jill Poyerd, Professional Fine Artist & Educator

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15 Lessons (1h 6m)
    • 1. Landscape Composition Trailer

    • 2. What Makes Landscapes Unique?

    • 3. What Makes Landscapes Unique - QUIZ

    • 4. An Understanding of Values

    • 5. The Planes Theory

    • 6. The Planes Theory II

    • 7. The Planes Theory - QUIZ

    • 8. Exceptions to the Planes Theory

    • 9. Exceptions to the Planes Theory - QUIZ

    • 10. Determining a Focal Point

    • 11. Determining a Focal Point - QUIZ

    • 12. How a Composition Leads the Eye

    • 13. How a Composition Leads the Eye - QUIZ

    • 14. Dos and Don'ts of Landscape Composition

    • 15. Dos and Don'ts of Landscape Composition - QUIZ

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About This Class

Learn to successfully see a landscape when painting in oil, watercolor, or acrylic or in photographic compositions.

"This has to be the best information I ever got on landscape composition. It is explained in an easy to follow format well supported with great quality video and photos." Diane F.

A landscape composition design can mean the success or failure of a piece of art whether you paint in oils, watercolor, or acrylics; draw; or work in photography. In this 3-part course, professional landscape painter, Jill Poyerd, goes beyond teaching the rules - she teaches students how to "see" a landscape and then translate what they see into a successful design. 

Using her approachable, easy-to-understand teaching method and an easy pace, students of any experience level learn by watching visually appealing video instruction and working through over 22 student activities and quizzes. Topics discussed include what makes landscapes unique, the planes theory, focal points, compositional lines, design tools of the Masters, choosing a subject, conducting a photoshoot, reconstructing images, and then using value and notan sketches to check your designs.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jill Poyerd

Professional Fine Artist & Educator


Jill Poyerd, NWS, is a contemporary realist known for her tranquil subject matter and unique painting style. Her award-winning work can be found in private collections both nationally and internationally. She has been featured in national publications, is the author of the portrait painting book Fearless Portraits, and is a signature member of several prestigious art societies, including the National Watercolor Society. Jill works in both watermedia and oil paints and has exhibited extensively throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as well as in national shows.

In addition to her work as an artist, Jill is an active member of the arts community. She has curated many multi-medium group shows, and is the founder and current head of the Fine Art Professionals of Northern Virgi... See full profile

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1. Landscape Composition Trailer: Landscapes have been a popular subject in art every since the 16 hundreds or so. And I for one, have been drawn to that appeal. I've been a landscape painter professionally for many, many years. And I've come to appreciate the beauty, the complexity, and the balance seen in nature. I feel I've developed my own i over all these years. And I'd like to share some of what I've learned with you. But in sharing information, my goal isn't just to give you rules and theory. I wanted to teach you to see the landscape, to be able to break down what you see before you with relative ease. And then to develop a successful composition or whatever your artistic purposes. This course begins with a discussion on how landscapes are unique compared to other subject matter. First, let's figure out what we're talking about as far as subject. Then we review a very helpful theory that breaks the landscape down into a series of planes. From there we there in how to select the focal point and how to identify the lines in the scene that guide the viewer's eye. With all of this under our belt. We then look at nine designed tools used by both masters and contemporary artists and to develop successful compositions. At this point in the class, we have a better idea of how to see the landscape, but now it's time to put it into practice. The second part of this course takes the prior information and applies it to real life. We talk about choosing a subject for your photo shoot, followed by some planning. And then actually walking through three photo shoots together. Then we download our images, select the strongest scenes, and reconstruct them as needed. We also talk about image orientation and how that impacts landscape. And we check our designs with both a value sketch and no Tan design. In the courses I create, I like to answer the question why? And that applies to landscape composition as well. By the end of the course, students should have a depth of knowledge when it comes to developing a successful landscape design. Leaving them with an image that they can take on to the next step in their art history, whether painting, drawing, or pre photographic display. One last thing, this is not a painting cons. This is what I call a learn how to see class. Wherever 20 student activities, class multiple video quizzes. I want you to understand landscape composition completely. A really deep knowledge that you can build upon as you continue in your artistic pursuits. 2. What Makes Landscapes Unique?: The first thing we need to discuss is how landscapes differ from other subject matter, such as still-life in portraiture. There are things that the landscape artist has to consider or work with that artists working in other subjects don't really have to worry about. I'm talking about land features, atmosphere, sunlight, weather, and seasons. Portrait in still life paintings are typically painted in controlled environments. They're confined and normally indoor spaces. The artist gets to set the lighting and even rearrange the objects and elements at will. Landscape painters, On the other hand, don't really have that luxury. Nature determines many of the conditions for us. So let's look at some of the unique topics that landscape painters have to work with. The first and most obvious topic that's unique to landscape painting are the land features themselves. And by this I mean the physical aspects of nature. The mountains or hills, trees, bodies of water, or grasses, to name a few. The Earth's topography is something a still-life artist doesn't normally have to contend with. And each of these features have a multitude of variations, such as the different types of grasses or leaves. Clouds could be considered a feature as well. Think about the many kinds of clouds that you see or the different skies. Water takes many different forms. You have rivers, creeks, oceans, even puddles. So basically any physical feature found in nature. Now these features are visible. We can see them because they've been illuminated by light. Sunlight to be specific, which is another topic we have to consider. The light we see is affected by several important factors, including light intensity. Light can be direct, an intense, such as what we experience on a clear day. Or it can be diffused by atmospheric or weather conditions such as clouds are Hayes. It can also be partially obstructed, causing dramatic lighting effects. As sunlight is increasingly filtered, features and objects decrease in color and value, which suddenly changes the tools that we use in composition design. Here's an example. Notice that in this image of appear, the eye is drawn to the bold values of structure. Those darks and lights in the series of parallel pillars during the heavy fog. That value contrast lessons as particles in the atmosphere between us and the structure increase. Now your eye is drawn to the single area of gold, that color. In the upper left corner. We can see the object in the first image, but it's overtaken by the intense values around it. Another asset. Light that influences a scene and therefore composition design is the angle of the sun. When the sun rises, it appears along the horizon and the light hits objects from the side, creating dramatically long cast shatters. At noon, the sun is directly overhead, so shadows become less of a factor. But as it sets, the Sun once again strikes objects from the side, causing elongated shadows. This time from the opposite direction. These shadow lines can be used to direct the viewers eye when designing a composition. Now we mentioned atmosphere as it influences light. But what exactly is atmosphere? The air or the sky is filled with microscopic particles, such as dust, pollen, or water. These particles cause distant features to appear increasingly hazy and increasingly cool the farther they get from you. So the finer the landscape object is from you, the more particles of atmosphere sit between you and the object. It's a constant atmospheric condition and something that gives the landscape visual depth. And It's another tool that can be used to lead the viewer's eye in a scene. Atmospheric conditions are constant, but whether also has an influence on the atmosphere. In this case, it's a constantly changing phenomenon, whether it can be used to affect mood or create drama when you paint. And it influences a composition by altering values as well as colour. For example, a stormy sky has intensely dark values, as opposed to a sunny or even a misty sky. And those dark and light values can direct the lines in the scene. Snow often becomes the lightest value in a scene and can change a very dark feature into one of the lightest. For this reason, seasons are another thing that have to be considered by the landscape artist. But now he's just one of the weather conditions that can have a strong influence on the values in a composition. Each season brings a multitude of changes that can influence the scene. Notice, for example, how the mood of the same general scene. In this case, a river, changes throughout the seasons. Each time we change a season here, the feeling changes, the colors change, the values change. So the landscape artist has a number of factors they have to consider and that can influence the composition. In the next video, we'll run through a quick quiz to see what you remember. 3. What Makes Landscapes Unique - QUIZ: Let's see if you can remember the five major topics that are unique to landscape. Pause the video and see if you can recall all five. Then press Play. The topics are land features, sunlight, atmosphere, weather, and seasons. Were you able to name them out? In the next video, we're going to set the groundwork for the rest of the course by discussing what values are. 4. An Understanding of Values: Knowing a little bit about values will help you with the rest of this course. So let's have a brief lesson in this regard. A value is the relative lightness or darkness of a particular color. Now it's easiest to see when we compare the lights and darks of a great home. Let me show you what I mean. This image, although it's in colour, depicts mostly grey tones. The objects in the scene are formed from various values of gray. White is the lightest color there is. As black is added to white in increasing amounts, the white becomes deeper and deeper gray until it eventually reaches black. This is called a grayscale chart, and it can help you identify the values in a scene. For example, if we zoom into this image and place the grayscale chart on the right side. You'll see that each of these tones and there are many in-between, can be found in this single image. Lights and darks not only give objects their form, but they also provide depth and contrast in a painting or a photograph. An image that has mostly light values is called Heikki. And one with mostly darks is located. But most images have a nice balance of both. Now we saw how this applies to gray, but you can apply the same value theory to other colors. Let's look at an example. Here's a landscape in full color. Now let's bring back the grey value chart and identify various color cones in this image. We'll begin with this midtone green. You can see that it's one of the colors seen in the distant mountains. And this color lines up with one of the mid values in the grayscale. What about this lighter green? Where do you think that would fall? It's just a little lighter than the first color. And we can continue to do this, locating various colors in the image and seeing how they match up with the gray tones. This full bodied value scheme is one of the things that gives this landscape so much depth and interest. Knowing about values and perhaps even keeping a grayscale card in your workspace can help you better gauge value depth. And for those of you who tend to be a little timid with your values, it can help you make sure that you have enough value variation in your work. In the next video, we'll learn about how to see a landscape in terms of broad plains. 5. The Planes Theory: Now that we've discussed how landscapes differ from other subjects, such as Still Life and portraiture. Let's move on and discuss a method for breaking down the landscape in broad terms. This is a theory that comes from a book by John F. Carlson. It was published in 1973 and was titled Carlson's Guide to landscape painting. It's very popular even today. And in it, he theorizes that the landscape or nature can be broken down into a series of planes. This is very helpful and I want to review it with you, but I also want you to keep in mind that it's a theory, not a perfect science. There are many exceptions, and I'll show you a few. But what I like about it is the fact that it trains your brain to think of what you see in nature as physical planes. You'll see what I mean as we move along. Now, carnal Sen's theory deals with four planes. You have the light source, which is the sky, and you have the slanting features, which would be the mountains. You have your upright features, for example, trees. And then you have your flat plane, which would be the ground. Carlson's theory is based on the fact that according to him, objects receive different amounts of light according to their plane. So a slanting mountain will not catch quite as much light as the ground, which is horizontal to the sky. And perpendicular objects receive even less late, so they end up as your darkest value. Now how is all of this useful to you? I would say basically, it just helps you simplify your scene. It helps you take the landscape in front of you and break it down into workable groupings. Or in this case, planes. It's a concept that's good to store in the back of your mind and over time will subtly help you be more effective in deciphering what you see in nature. But if we expand upon this theory, it can also help you evaluate the values and the composition all lines in a scene. That's what we'll discuss in the next video. 6. The Planes Theory II: Now that we have a general understanding of Carlson's theory of landscape planes, let's expand upon it a little bit. He had broken down the scene into four planes, but we can actually come up with some subcategories and maybe some different verbage. Let me show you what I mean. We'll take this image of a mountainous landscape and break it down into planes, beginning with what we'll call the distant background. These are the very distant mountains and they tend to be darker than the sky, but one of the lighter values in the scene. Next you have the background, which would be the closer mountains. These would be the slanted planes, and these would be the next darkest value. We have the foreground, which is the plane that's horizontal to the sky. Therefore, it's a lighter value, maybe just a little bit darker than the very distant mountain. You also have the perpendicular objects, which are clearly some of the darkest values in the scene. And then you have the sky, which is often the lightest value that you have. Although there are exceptions. Take a look at it in black and white. You can really see the value differences when you take away the color. Lets look at another example, this time with a water feature and a totally overcast sky. I removed the colors so we can see the values more clearly. In spite of the clouds, the sky is still the lightest value in the scene, which falls in line with the plane's theory. The next lightest value is the flat plane. In this case, a reflective plane. Or the water. The light from the sky hits directly onto the reflective surface, resulting in a value that's lighter than the flat foreground but darker than the sky. The distant background consists of slanted planes and is the next darkest value, followed by the flat ground or foreground. And as we've consistently seen in the plains theory, the perpendicular objects. In this case, the clips, are the darkest values in the scene because they receive the least amount of direct life. Understanding the planes and identifying the values can help you see the guiding lines in the landscape. As we see here, those value contrasts help lead the eye. And in this particular scene, the color simply reinforces those lines. In the next video, we'll take a quick review quiz before moving on. And there's a worksheet on the planes as well. 7. The Planes Theory - QUIZ: In order to better solidify the concept of the planes theory. Let's walk through a brief visual quiz on the subject. I'll show you an image and ask you to decipher the basic planes in the scene. Then I'll show you the answers. Now remember, you can pause the video if you need more time to think it over. We'll begin with this lake landscape. Take a minute to figure out what the planes are in this scene. And I'll convert it to black and white to help you better evaluate. The first thing you'll notice is that the flat plane is actually the reflective surface of the water. So in this case, the values are just slightly darker versions of the surface area. The lightest plane is the sky, followed by what do you think? If you said the slanted planes, you're right. And in this case we have a distant slanted plane and a closer slanted plane. Lastly, we have the perpendicular objects, which hopefully you were able to see are the darkest elements in the scene. Let's look at an example in a masterpiece, this one by fair. In this piece we can identify the same four basic planes. Dc them. Remember to pause if you need more time. Again, we can identify the sky as the latest plane. And the flat plane, which is the foreground, land as the second lightest. Then come the slanted planes, the most distant being lighter than the closer one. And finally, the darkest plane, which is the perpendicular objects, the evergreens in the foreground. The values of each plane won't always line up perfectly with a theory. In fact, most often it won't. But as we said, it's kind of a building block and it helps you see the landscape in terms of broad plains. Let me test you with one more landscape, a little more complicated than the last two. This is a forest scene, but we can still apply the theory. First, we'll change it to black and white so you can better see the values. Now if you look closely, you can see the lightest plane in the scene. Dc. It, it's the sky and we can see it through the small spaces between the trees. Now what do you see as the next darkest playing? If you said the path, the flat plane, you're correct. And in this image, the slanted plane takes a different form. Can you identify it? It's the bank along the path. And true to form, it is the next darkest plane. Lastly, what is the darkest plane? It's the trees themselves, the perpendicular objects. So you can see that the planes theory can apply to various kinds of landscapes. But it's not always this simple. Sometimes, and in fact, quite often there are exceptions to the rules. In the next video, we'll explore this topic. 8. Exceptions to the Planes Theory: When the sun rises or sets on the horizon, objects receive light from the side. This can cause perpendicular objects to become one of the latest objects in the scene. Directly contradicting what we learned about in the plains Theory. In this video, we're going to explore some of the many exceptions to the rule. And we'll begin by looking at how the angle of the sun changes, what we see. The planes theory assumes that the sun is positioned at midday or there abouts directly overhead. As the sun rises or sets, the sun's rays strike objects from different angles, changing the value of the planes. Because you're changing the direction and the length of the shadows. It's most dramatic when the sun reaches the horizon. In this example, we can see that the sun is striking the mountain from the side, lighting it up and making it one of the lightest values in the scene. Remember, typically a slanted plane is one of the darker values. Another way we can tell that the sun is coming from this side is because the foreground is in fairly deep shade. Depending on the scene and the sun's angle. You can end up with both sunlit and shaded slanted planes in the same image. And this is because mountains often sit in layers. Notice that the snow and the Back Mountain is one of our lightest values in the scene. Snow and other weather conditions changed the way we see planes in a landscape. Snow is white, or rather it reflects light causing it to appear white. Unlike a black object which absorbs light rays, snow crystals cause the light to bounce. And because we see it as white, snow is most often the lightest value in the scene and can mix up the values in the plains. Let me show you what I mean. Here. We'll compare the typical plains theory in the image on the left with a snowy scene, which is an exception on the right. This is just one example of how weather can have an impact on the plains. Very, I'll change it to black and white so we can better evaluate the values. And we'll begin by identifying the lightest plane in each scene. On the left, the lightest plane is the sky, a standard in the plains theory. On the right, the latest plane is both the snow-covered distant mountain and the snow-covered foreground. This second lightest plane in the plains theory, the foreground. But in this image on the right, it's the sky. The next darkest plane is typically the slanted planes. And it's still the case in the snowy scene where there isn't any snow. And finally, the darkest plane in both scenes are the perpendicular objects. So you can see that white features. Quite an impact. Would other naturally occurring features are white? Well, some of the cliffs along the English and French coasts are white. And even though they function is perpendicular objects, they're natural light value makes them as light as the value in the sky. And certain variations of trees to have whitebark, such as Aspen's second Mars, and birch trees. In addition to white objects and the angle of the sun, the values of planes can be thrown off by fog and missed. If we were to evaluate this scene for planes, this guy in the fog would clearly be the lightest value, followed by the distant perpendicular objects, main pale by the atmospheric particles. Now that foreground tree is a perpendicular object as well, and it's the next darkest value. It's closer to us, so there are fewer particles between us and the object. Therefore it appears darker. And then finally the foreground, which is normally one of the lightest values. But since all the distinct features are obscured by atmosphere and due to the diminished the light, the foreground in this case, becomes the darkest value. Another twist in the theory is a stormy sky. When a dark impending storm system is in view, the sky no longer remains the lightest value. In this example, the breaking waves are the lightest value, followed by the very pale sand that reflects any available light. Now disguise value falls into place. Normally it would be the lightest value. It's now nearly as dark as the distant background. And finally, you have the perpendicular objects, which in this case are the trees and the rocks. We'll end this lesson by looking at a winter scene that combines multiple exceptions. To begin with. Notice that the sunlight is coming from the right. It's not sunset, but it's fairly low on the horizon. We can tell because of the long shadows, this angle causes the perpendicular on the river bank to be the darkest value. And the river, the next darkest. Water is usually only a little darker than the sky since it receives direct light. But in this case, the sum is low and the values around the water are very light, which combine gives us the rivers dark tone. Ground slanted plane is the next darkest value, followed by the distant background, which is in line with what we learned in the plains theory. However, the areas of snow on the distant slanted planes bring parts of it up and value. Those spots are actually lighter than the sky, which is the next lightest plane. Finally, the very lightest value is the foreground and the snow bound perpendicular trees. So when observing a scene to evaluate the visible planes, keep an eye out for elements that are very light or maybe white. Look for possible effects of whether an atmosphere and pay attention to the angle of the sun. Each factor can throw off the values of the planes in a scene. Remember that the intention of the planes theory is to train the eye to look at the landscape in broad terms. To an untrained eye, a landscape could be overwhelming. Where do you start? And this relates to both photographers and painters. With the plane's theory, you train your eye to see it in simplified forms. In the next video, we'll run through some exercises to help reinforce this concept. And I've included a worksheet for you as well. 9. Exceptions to the Planes Theory - QUIZ: In this video, we're going to test your knowledge of the exceptions to the plains. I'll show you an image and then you try to figure out how the order would go with the Plains from lightest to darkest. Our first example is a broad sunlit landscape. Take a moment to decipher the various planes according to their values. Lightest to darkest. I'll change it to block and wait to help you evaluate. Pause the video if you need more time. The first thing to notice is that the sun is hitting objects from an angle from the right and the sky isn't clear. There are some dark clouds forming. It's also fall so the leaves have become Golden, a lighter value than green. So in this scene, the perpendicular objects, trees are the lightest playing. They're actually the same value as the foreground flat plane. What's the next darkest value? It's the sky. Those dark clouds pull the value down a bit. And the river is just a hair darker. Remember that water tends to reflect the sky and is typically a touch darker than what it reflects. So where did this slanted planes fall in this scene? They would be the next darkest, just before the darkest plane, which is the bank of the river. Because the sun hits at an angle, it causes the edge of the river to be in full shape. Let's look at another landscape. Can you spot the exceptions to the planes in this scene? Look at it in black and white. The white of the cloud would normally be the lightest value. But what else is that value? The white of the rapids in the water. That brings it complexity of values to the river, which functions as the flat plane in this scene, there's another exception. Can you spot it? It's the fact that the trees on the right are receiving direct sun, while the ones on the left are in shade. This results in the groups of perpendicular objects having two different values. And this is because the sun is hitting the seam from left to right. At this point, I'd like you to attempt a hands-on exercise. I've attached a PDF to this lesson. And in it, you're going to shade in a drawing as it would be using the normal planes theory. Then you'll shade in the second image of the same scene. But this time you'll incorporate one of the exceptions to the planes. When you're finished, you can move on to our discussion on determining a focal point. 10. Determining a Focal Point: Now that we've learned how to see a landscape in terms of planes, we can move on and discuss how to look at a scene in terms of composition design. And it all starts with determining how a composition leads the eye. When examining a scene, you need to determine a focal point and then figure out how the lines in the picture lead your eye. Every scene needs to have a focal point. You need to figure out where you want the viewer to look and that spot will be your focal point. Determining a focal point is very important because the viewer likes to be told where to look. If they're not told where to look, if there is no focal point, it can be frustrating for the viewer. For example, look at this landscape scene and notice where your eye goes. More than likely, your eye wanders through the scene, looking for a place to rest, something to focus on. It feels kind of unsatisfying. And this is because there's nothing that stands out independently, perhaps those distant boats, but they're really too small to function as a workable focal point. Of course, you can have the opposite problem. In this image. There are too many focal points. Again, the eye doesn't know where it's supposed to rest. So in this case, it keeps bouncing around from object to object. In both cases, it can be very frustrating for the viewer. Now compare those two scenes to this 11 object. That is clearly the focal point. My eye goes right to it. I do scan the background and the surrounding landscape, but my eye continues to go back to the boat, almost like a place to rest. So is it possible to have a successful composition without a focal plane? Yes and no. In this painting by Lowry, there isn't really an element to rest your ion. So in that sense there isn't a focal point. But the AI rests along the most dominant line in the scene, the horizon line. And because it's such a simple scene, its simplicity creates a very relaxing visual. Compare that to this piece, which is slightly more complex. The I now has two small places where it can focus, both along the horizon, but they're almost too small to be seen. It's still very restful, but not quite as much as the more simplified composition we looked at prior. Ocean scenes by their very nature, are relaxing, may draw the human eye to such a degree that it's one of the few scenes that can get away with no true focal point. The viewer takes in the entire scene as its focus. But you can also sometimes get away with it in broad sweeping landscapes. By emphasizing the breadth of the scene, the viewers focuses on the feeling of expanse. By Gifford does offer some subtle focal points. The mountains in the background. But I think the true intention was for the scene to be taken on a whole, a focus on the feeling. Now the size of your focal point is very important. A focal point needs to be large enough to fulfill its function. In this scene, the boat is just too tiny. It's actually frustrating to look at my I can't see it well, and I find it annoying to try to focus in on in the scene actually works much better if we leave it out. Now, what was it about this tiny boat that made it the focal point? Well, it was one of the darkest values in the scene. And it was surrounded by light values, resulting in an eye-catching contrast in values. When we remove the boat are I instantly shifts and focuses on the distant part of the leak. I'll explain why that happens later in the course. For now, just recognize that strong value contrast can cause an element to become the focal point. This can be from the natural value of a form or because of a sensational lighting effect. Another thing that can cause an element to attract the eye is a striking color, perhaps an unusual color, or complimentary color. It could be the size of the form. A very large object. Perhaps. It could be a path or a structure. There are many possibilities, but it boils down to finding something within the scene to focus on something with visual interests. Then it's a matter of making sure your elements lineup to lead the viewer to that point. And that's usually done through a successful arrangement of the lines in the scene. In the next video, we'll go through a quick quiz on identifying the focal point in the scene. 11. Determining a Focal Point - QUIZ: In this video, we're going to reinforce what we just learned about focal points in a landscape. There are a few exercises I'd like you to do where you manipulate the location of the focal point. And then some exercises where you guess what the focal point is. The first thing I'd like you to do is pause the video and look at the attached document titled windmill, printed out or load it into a program, and then crop it with either sheets of paper or a tool in that program. The idea is to change the location of the windmill in the scene. And as you do this, pay attention to how ie, change in location affects the feeling of the landscape. Then continue this video where we'll walk through some of the options in this task. Here's our full image with a windmill in the center. It's pleasant, but let's look at some of our options. The first thing you could do is zoom into the windmill, keeping it centered as the primary object. This composition has a very steady but dominant feeling to me. If we shift it to the left, this space on the right helps it feel better. It gives us some way to rest. But the closeness of the object still feels strong. Let's try something else. Let's place the windmill in the upper right section. How does that feel to you? Well, I'm not crazy about the blades facing the edge of missing. So let's move the windmill to the left. The blades now open up into the open space where you can visually rest. Let's try something else. What if our horizon line is very low? If we show more Sky by situating the windmill in the lower right section, the scene is kinda like before. The blades face the edge, which kind of kills this scene a bit. Let's move it left. And I'm going to raise it just a tad. That's better. The blades now interact with the open space, which is the vast open sky. So now it's just a matter of which Horizon works better. Here are the two versions. Each change in focal point location influenced the overall mood. And it's something the artist has to contend with. It's very individual. Now, let's see how you do it. Identifying focal points in Seems. Don't worry if you don't get it right. I'm identifying the most typical choice, but it's art. There's room for differing opinions. Let's give it a try. Pause the video if you need more time before I show you the answers. The first landscape is a broad expanse of fields. In these scenes, you could opt for no focal point. But there is actually a spot that draws the eye. Do you see it? It's the area just left-of-center. We'll discuss why in the next lecture. Here's a wonderful atmospheric landscape. Where does your eye go in this image? What do you think is the focal point? It's that short mountain just left of center. And here. Where does your eye settle? If you said the end of the road where that shrub sets your right. How about this one? What is the focal point? Did you say the bear tree at the end of the creek? If so, you're correct. And what about this image? It's the red foliage in the foreground. Dominant colors that are rather isolated in a scene can themselves act as a focal point by commanding so much attention. And finally, as we scan this scene, can you identify the primary element that would act as the focal point? It's the Mesa in the distance on the left. In fact, the focal point could even be narrowed down to this specific spot in the Mesa. At this point, we've practiced identifying a focal point in the scene. Now let's see how we do in selecting the best compositions given two options. I'm going to show you sets of two images and ask you which one you feel has a better focal point, which one is more pleasing to look at? In this case, if you guessed the one on the right, you're correct. But why? For one thing, the position of the highest mountain a centered more. That's our focal point. And if it's too close to the edge, it throws off the balance and loses strength. That's why you're not sure where to look in the image on the left. Also the distant mountains or more linear, more simplified in their shape. If supporting features are too complicated or eye-catching, they can compete with the key features in a NAND cause confusion. This simple lines, in this case are soothing and the foreground evergreens are also aligned horizontally and lay right against the base of the mountains. This cluster of linear tree groupings joined the mountains in supporting the focal point, the tallest peak. All of this creates a more organized, settled feeling in the image. What about these two images? Which one has the more successful focal point? Let's look at it in black and white so that the color is not an influence. Have you decided if you selected the image on the right? You're correct. In the landscape on the left, it's hard to know where the focal point is. Your eye kind of jumps from tree to tree, not knowing which one to rest on. In the scene. On the right, there are two trees on the left side that are raised up a bit and a little isolated. This makes them command a little extra attention. Plus there are only three tree clumps and this one much simpler than the six in the image on the left. Here's another landscape. This time two different single trees. Which scene do you find more pleasing? Which one has a better focal point? If you send the one on the left who you're correct. Dino, why? For one thing, there's more color variation in the tree itself that happens to coordinate with the foreground colors. To see the other reasons, let's turn the images to black and white. Now you can see the overall shapes better. The left tree is more interesting. And notice that the features directly buying the trees, very beloved tree is set off by the light background, while the right tree kind of blends in. Our last comparison involves a structure, a barn, and a silo featured from different perspectives. On the left, the barn is part of a broader seen. On the right. It's much more isolated. Which landscaped draws your eye more? The answer is the one on the right. They both use the burn-in silo combination as their focal point. But the landscape on the left has multiple additional buildings as well. In this case, those elements kind of water down the scene. If they were darker, we might've gotten away with it. But as their white, it tends to distract. The barn in the right image is more isolated and the eye goes directly to the structures. In fact, those elements are the lightest objects in the scene, helping to direct the eye. And that's the topic of our next video. How lines in the SIM can direct the eye. 12. How a Composition Leads the Eye: Remember this lake scene where we removed the distracting boat. I mentioned that now the eye goes to the farthest part of the lake. Now we'll discuss why. It's primarily about the lines in the scene. Now, what do I mean by lines? Well, when elements within the landscape have strong difference in value, and when these elements form large regions within the scene, such as the top edge of this line of trees. The line that's created becomes a guiding line that leads the eye. And these lines can be formed by groupings of trees, reflections in the water, mountainsides, and their reflection, as well as various other land features. In this image, all of the dominant lines lead to the farthest end of the lake. And that becomes your focal 0.1 of the most obvious lines in many landscapes is the horizon line. This is the line where the sky meets the ground. Now it's not always clearly visible, but when it is, it can help lead the eye. Now there are other lines here. The grouping of debris on the beach, the base of the shrubs, the top of the tree line. And even the dark values in the clouds. Cloud forums are often used by artists to help guide the eye. Color can be used to form a line as well. Notice this line of pink. Now if we remove the color, you can see that the line actually disappears because there are similar values throughout the sky. When the color is reapplied. You can see how it too, can be used to lead the viewer to the focal point, which in this image is the farthest point on the beach. Let's evaluate another landscape. This time, larva close up seeing, in this case, the first line we notice is the ploughed path of snow. Viewers instantly recognize the man-made path and the lines made to create that path. The fencing on the right of the path reinforces that line. And even though the trees are now, I level the tops and the bottoms of the grouping create additional lines. And that's true on the left side as well. This prominent tree trunk right here simply supports the other lines by creating a kind of arch over the focal point, which if you haven't guessed, is the end of the path. Now when you're on location, some lines will move, such as a blowing tree branch or shifting water. Think of the water along the shore. It ebbs and flows. And with each change, the line in the scene changes. Nature is constantly moving. Rocks are elements that can provide really nice lines. But when they're struck by crashing waves, notice how the shape of the rock mass changes as the white of the wave hits various sections of the form, it changes the shape of that mass. These are big changes and something to be considered when you're observing a scene. Even at a distance, the running times, the white froth on the water acts as an ever-changing mind that can be harnessed when developing a composition. So how do you know which lines are important? You'll always have some dominant lines that stand out. And these are likely to be the ones that have a higher value contrast, for example, a very light element against a very dark one. Or perhaps the edge around a very dominant color. Sometimes there are obvious lines in the scene that don't lead to the focal point. These are what I consider supporting lines, meaning they provide a sense of balance and stability to the landscape. Often these would be various parallel lines, as you can see in the background hill here. In this scene, I would also consider a Mountains as supportive lines. They don't lead to the focal point, but rather they set up the scene and provide a kind of backdrop. The dominant guiding lines here would be the ones along the water's edge and the trees all leading up to the focal point as we've discussed. Here's a little test you can do. If you take out a line, think to yourself, would it change where your eye goes in the scene? If it would, then it's a dominant line. In the next video, we'll take a quick quiz on all of this information. 13. How a Composition Leads the Eye - QUIZ: In the prior lectures and activities, we talked about focal points in landscapes. Now let's take a little quiz and see if you can identify the lines in various scenes. And in fact, we'll use some of the same images. So you can see why those focal points were. The first image is that broad English landscape with the subtle focal point. Focal area. Really. Why does the I go to that spot? Take a minute and see if you can figure it out. Did you notice the line of trees in the middle on the right? They lead to that spot. And how about the top edge of the hill on the left? That leads there too? But perhaps the most obvious is the stone path in the lower left that winds its way to the very same spot. Now, in addition to the lines, that area of land is a little lighter than those around it. This can leave the eye as well. So if we were to crop this for painting purposes, we would make sure to keep that area as a central focus so that the lines continue to do their job. Here's another landscape of very atmospheric one. How beautiful? We haven't determined that the focal point was that shorter mountain in the left of center. Now take a minute and see if you can identify the dominant lines in the scene. Play the video again when you're ready to continue. The first thing you may have noticed is the line created by the foreground foliage. It arcs around and kind of cradles the scene. Now doesn't point you to the focal point, but it does support it. You can also see the lines created by the tops of the adjacent mountains. Now they do lead your eye to this center left mountain. They keep your eye anchored there really? Do you remember this river scene? The focal point was that bear tree at the end of the Creek. But what makes that the focus? Take a minute to examine the scene. What lines do you see? The most obvious line is the one created by the river itself. And that's because of the value contrasts, as well as the color. It leads your eye to the end of the creek. Color was important in identifying that line. But let's change to black and white and take another look. Pause the video and look for dominant lines. When you're ready, click Play. The river line. The first line IC is the one created by the base of trees on the left, and it leads right to the bare tree. Then there's the mound of snow on the right. The line on the top created by the strong value contrast, that also leads to the tree. Now there's a less obvious line that one created by the tops of the trees in the back, but that functions more as a supportive line in this scene. The next thing I'd like you to do is compare the following two images and determine which one you feel has better lines. These are very similar. Ocean seems. Now look for a minute at each scene and determine which composition you think were expressed. Pause the video if needed. The first and most noticeable line is the horizon line. Very similar in each scene, although they're at different heights. Next, you may have noticed align created by the front of the breaking wave. Here's where we see the biggest difference. Did you pick up on it? The image on the right has a much more interesting dominant line with a well-positioned water spots. The addition of the dark rock on the right helps it as well. So the placement of the horizon line and the lines in the splash, as well as the inclusion of the dark rock off to the side, make the right image more balanced, more interesting, and therefore more successful. In order to further solidify this concept, I've included three hands-on activities for you. You can do one or all three. But the idea is to print out or load the documents onto a program and then trace what you think are the key lines in the scene. Then check your answers with the attached answer sheets. After that, we can move on to the next lecture. Do's and don'ts of landscape design. 14. Dos and Don'ts of Landscape Composition: Now that we've briefly discussed land features and the importance of how elements lead your eye. Let's talk about some do's and don'ts. And then we'll discuss some common design tools. But first, I want you to keep in mind that these are just meant to be helpful guides. These aren't meant to box you into rules. Many, if not, most times, your composition will be the result of that reaction. But training your eye for common errors and workable formats will help you make future decisions and help you evaluate problematic compositions. So let's take a look at two common don'ts. The first don't is don't split the composition or the painting in half. In this photograph, the largest, most dominant pine tree is right in the middle. It's vertical lines splits the scene right in half. It's not quite as pleasing to look at as this image where the same pine trees placed to the left. You still have the strong vertical. But since it's off-center, it acts as a support line for the lines in the creek leading your eye to the farthest end of the water. Now just so you know, these rules are not set in stone. Piece by Paul says on Cezanne's splits his canvas and f with this tree. Is it pleasing? Well, it's not something I would have done. But I'm not going to argue with Suzanne. Just keep in mind that for every rule, there's probably a painting out there that successfully breaks it. Another common rule is don't place your focal point at exactly the center of your painting. Now, I would make this a little more specific. I'd say, don't put a single object focal point at exactly Center. In this scene, the eye is drawn to the largest pine tree located right in the middle of the image. While there are many pleasing aspects to this landscape, there's an awkward feeling with that tree being right in the middle. If we move it a bit, you can see that it now supports a new focal point, the end of the creek. The focus is now on a section of the same rather than a single object. And it's situated a little below center. It's much more pleasing to look at. Let's look at this another way. Here's an interesting tree placed in the middle of a scene. If we transform it to a line drawing, it may help you see this a little more clearly. Even though there's a balance to the scene, it doesn't feel intriguing. It's almost boring. If we move the tree to the left, the scene has a more satisfying feeling. You feel the space on the right are supported by the tree on the left. You also start to notice the long shadow. Now you don't want to go too far to the left or right, typically, or the balance begins to feel off. And the viewers, I could sweep off of the edge of the image. You could keep the tree in the center of the image, but you'd have to treat it more like a portrait. And the tree or whatever element needs to have some visual interest. To do this, I would typically eliminate much of the background and 0 in so that the viewer now focuses on sub focal points within the form. It's a change of focus. Now we'll discuss this a little bit more when we talk about design tools. But for now, just remember that typically the focal point isn't situated at dead center in an image. But of course, rules in art can always be broken. For example, look at this piece by Renoir. Here he's broken that rule and successfully gets away with it. If you place cross hairs dividing up the painting and then you circle the center, you find that he put his figure right in the middle and he makes it work. My own opinion as to why this works is that Renoir has a curved path leading to the center, which alters the path that the AI takes. It's also framed by the tree on the right and the shrub on the left. I think that all of these factors help make it a pleasing composition. Now, here are two helpful do's that you might want to keep in mind. The first time is try to use an odd number of elements, especially if your elements are going to be very obvious. The second one is to vary the sizes and the space between the elements. Here's a good example. In this photograph, there are three primary elements. The grouping of evergreen trees. The river which loosely coordinates with the trees, and the distant mountains. Each is very different from the other end. Within the evergreens, you have variation in size, distance from one another, and even the subgrouping. The result is an image with both unity, the similar tree species and the tree river shapes and diversity. And one that is pleasing to the eye. Here's a great painting example that shows unity and diversity. In this painting, Caro does a fantastic job varying his Elements and still maintaining unity. It offers so much visual interest and yet you still know where you're supposed to look. In the next video, we'll take a quick quiz on this information. And there's also a PDF that includes a hands-on activity. 15. Dos and Don'ts of Landscape Composition - QUIZ: Now that we've learned about the recommended do's and don'ts when designing a landscape composition, let's test your knowledge. First, I recommend that you download and or print the attached PDF titled do's and don'ts worksheet, complete the task, check it with the answer sheet, and then continue the video. You can of course complete the worksheet at a later time. In this video, we're going to look at some images in which I'd like you to try to identify what's wrong with the composition or what's right. And we'll begin with this landscape from the Rocky Mountains. Go ahead and pause the video and think about what's wrong with this composition. Did you notice that the four primary evergreens are all approximately the same size, shape, and distance from one another. It lacks variation, resulting in a slightly dole scene. Here's another version of it. Is this better? It does have variation in shape and size, but there's still a problem. Can you identify with that is, the shapes, although they're interesting, are still fairly evenly spread out. It could use variation in distance as well. Notice that we have an odd number of elements now, which is another do. This is what it looks like with variation in size, shape, and distance. It makes for a much more interesting scene. Now here's an example of a scene with good variation right off the bat. Can you spot the variety in its elements? The first thing you may have noticed are the clumps of white flowers. Each grouping is a different shape and size. You may have also noticed the variation in the trees. They're all similar, but the trunks have varying thickness and they're grouped. Interestingly, the focal point is the boy of course, and the path. But the variation in the supporting elements helps increase the scenes interests. Here's another image. This scene has a problem with its composition. Can you identify it? Did you notice that the scene is pretty much split in half? It's not completely divided, of course, but compositionally speaking, it is. Watch how the lines in the scene change simply by adding a carefully placed rock on the right side. Just one small change and the scene is a little more pleasing. Pulling the rock formation into a mark triangular flow and breaking up the division. And finally, how about this painting by Monet? What rule does he break here? He placed his single focal point almost directly in the middle of the composition. Now later in the course we'll talk about making this work. But for now, let's see how he could have reworked it. Here's another painting of the same subject by Monet. This time he added a second haystack, did help a little bit. But I think it's still feels a bit stark. Here's a more successful composition of the same subject. In this case, both Haystacks sit independently and are off-center. He also added more detail to the background. The result is a more interesting composition. See what you think when you see them in black and white. Variation. And placing things off center tends to produce some are pleasing composition. All that said, there is a composition design where you purposely place your focal point directly in the center. That's one of the topics we'll discuss in the next section on design tools.