Impressionist Landscape Composition - Rhythm & Movement | Rachael Broadwell | Skillshare

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Impressionist Landscape Composition - Rhythm & Movement

teacher avatar Rachael Broadwell, Fine Arts Teacher

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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

11 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Rhythm in Visual Art

    • 3. Movement in Visual Art

    • 4. Analyzing the Masters -- Rhythm

    • 5. Analyzing the Masters -- Movement

    • 6. Analyzing the Masters -- Rhythm + Movement

    • 7. Finding Rhythm & Movement in the "Real World"

    • 8. Exaggerating Rhythm & Movement

    • 9. Demo: Sketching to Problem-Solve

    • 10. Demo: Painting Rhythm & Movement

    • 11. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Have you ever looked at the paintings of the great masters of impressionism and wondered how they achieved such intriguing work from even the most common of subjects? Whether they painted haystacks or a worn path, their paintings pull us in and captivate our minds. 

How did they do it? And -- more importantly -- how can WE do it? 

Great artists employ two important concepts: Rhythm and Movement. These concepts seem a bit vague and mysterious at first, but really quite easy to understand once you learn how to "see" them.

In this course I will demystify the concepts of Rhythm and Movement in visual arts so that you can use these concepts more effectively in your work. Rhythm and movement are not always readily apparent for us in nature. Sometimes we need to know how to emphasize these qualities in subtle but meaningful ways.

This course is focused on the concepts of Rhythm and Movement, so it applies no matter what visual media you work in! If you're interested in my oil painting techniques, I have quite a few courses that go into detail on my approach.

I also have recently started a YouTube page called "Rachael Atelier." There you can find some supplemental videos and demonstrations!

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Rachael Broadwell

Fine Arts Teacher


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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to this course on Impressionist landscape composition. My name is Rachel, and in this course we are going to explore the concepts of rhythm and movement in visual arts. And as we work through this course, I'll be doing some demonstrations with oil paint. But it's important to know that these concepts apply across any medium, whether it's oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolor or even digital arts. So I hope you'll join me for this course and let's explore rhythm and movement. 2. Rhythm in Visual Art: Let's first define rhythm in terms of visual arts. Rhythm can be achieved through repetitions and motifs, which may include forms or shapes, line or color. And typically what we'll see is that there's some kind of variation, whether it's a variation in size or scale, spacing or other things like you. Chroma, saturation and repetitions and variations may be manipulated or exaggerated to create an emphasis on rhythm within the composition. And this is especially true when we're working from nature and thes rhythmic use may not be readily apparent. So now let's look at some visual examples of how to achieve repetitions in motives and those come together. Teoh give our paintings rhythm. So the first example that we're going to look at is creating repetitions and motifs through form or shape. So I'm just drawing a simple picture plane here, a simple horizon line, and then I'm using these curved lines to create a road. And then maybe there's some kind of curve ation in the sky, maybe where the clouds are or the way that the sun is illuminating the sky, and then we can create a further motif or repetition through the organic shapes of trees and plant life. The next way that we can achieve repetition and motif is through line. So I'm thinking of maybe some grass blowing in the wind here, so we see that there's a repetition in that slightly curved line creating the grass. We might also think in terms of trees, which is something obviously we commonly used in landscape. You see, I'm not making them all the same, and we will talk a little more about variation. Another way to create repetition and motif is actually through color, so we can use a color in multiple places throughout the composition that helped to create. Maybe it's subtle, but it creates a little bit of repetition within the composition. So maybe I'm thinking of an autumn day in the trees are nice and golden kind oven Oakar yellow. And maybe we see some of that on the ground where the leaves have fallen or the grass is beginning to turn, and then maybe even in the distant with some distant clouds. Maybe that's just not quite as saturated as the foreground color, but it's still that same color repeated. So now let's talk a little bit more about using those repetitions in varied ways. So the first way to vary are repetitions are through size or scale. So again, just a simple picture plane here, and I'm just trying to think we'll just put in a simple horizon lion, and then maybe we have some mountains and hills. But then there's some mountains and hills that are more distance. So we have, ah, variation with that shape. And then if it's reflected in a lake, that gives us another opportunity to repeat those shapes, but in a different scale. Or if I think of a tree in the foreground, and then again some trees in the distance. We have that shape repeated, but we have some variation with the scale. Another way to achieve variation is through spacing. So in this first example, I'm going to give an example of spacing that isn't very rhythmic. It's very even, and so this would be a little bit static. But a way to create a little more rhythm is just to vary the distances between these lines or trees, maybe angle them slightly different ways, and that is basically rhythm 3. Movement in Visual Art: now let's define movement in terms of the visual arts, movement is created through visual elements that guide the viewer's eye into and around. The composition movement can be static, meaning there isn't much movement or dynamic meaning. There's a lot of movement, and we can achieve movement through elements such as implied line, directional force tangents or focal points, cohesion versus tension and then relation of elements to the picture plane. And now let's look at some examples. The first example that we will look at is static versus dynamic movement, and with each of these I'll start with just a simple picture plane. And if we are going for a scene that doesn't have much movement, maybe we want it to be very calm. And still we might use a lot of vertical lines, a lot of straight lines. But if we want our composition to be a bit more dynamic in terms of movements than well, maybe throw in some curves from diagonals some elements that just have a little bit more energy and flow to them because that really helps, too, bring the viewer into the composition and to move there. I around the composition next let's look at implied line and then implied line is where we get the impression that there is a line there without an explicitly drawn line. A lot of times implied line is best seen through using a figure, and we tend to interpret the gaze of the figure as a line so that line isn't there. But when there's a figure in the composition looking in a certain direction, we tend Teoh, in our minds, draw a line in the direction of that figures. Gays Another way that we can achieve implied line without the use of any human subjects is by putting elements in our composition and arranging them in a way that they seem to flow in a line such as the example of these trees. Another way to use implied line is just by the way, that we arrange elements in the composition in away. That creates a pathway for the viewer's eye to move through the composition. We can also use a concept known as directional force to create movements. And so I think one good example of directional force would be having like a rocky shore where all the rocks are jagged and they seem to be pointing in one direction in a distant cliff that's also very jagged. And then maybe we have some rough waves in the water off shore, and then we have a figure in a boat who is apparently rowing in a certain direction. And so then we get this sense of force moving the composition, and we can also use tangents to help create a focal point in our composition. And this is something that really deserves a course on its own and will be the course that follows this one here on skill share, because tangents are very important and creating a focal point, especially within landscapes, could be quite a challenge. It does require a little bit of thought, sometimes a bit of manipulation. So we have some distant hills. We have a setting sun and that Sinus setting right where those two hills intersect, and so that is a tangent, and it then becomes our focal points. So this is often curt is created by implied lines or directional force, so we can use those to help create tangents. And of course, we can also use bright colors or very contrast ing values to achieve that next. Let's look at cohesion versus tension. So if we want a composition that is very cohesive and feels like everything just kind of flows together in a fluid way, we would use very similar lines or shapes. However, if we want to create a lot of tension, we'll use ah lot of variation. So there could be a lot of organic shapes, a lot of man made shapes, shapes that are more rigid and pointed. And now let's talk about how our elements can relate to the picture plane to also help creates movement. So you will notice, of course, that the picture plane, as long as you're working on a square rectangle, always has vertical and horizontal lines that come to a right angle at every corner. So if you wanted a composition that didn't have a lot of movement than you would use lines and shapes that mimic the picture plane, so they relate to the picture plane in the sense that they're very similar to the picture plane. There's lots of verticals, horizontal Z, and they don't very, very much. However, creating more movements will typically see us deviating our shapes and our lines from that picture planes. So using more curve a cious lines leaning are subject matter into the picture plane rather than out of it, so we can see again touching back on static versus dynamic movements relating to the picture. Plane is one way Teoh achieve both types of movements. 4. Analyzing the Masters -- Rhythm: Now let's analyze rhythm by looking back at some of the great masters of Impressionism in this first example by John Singer Sargent. Rhythm is very subtle, but we can find it here in these lines that make up this field, and we can see that he's varied the width, the length and even the general direction of these lines to create some variation within this rhythm. Next looks look at this painting by Claude Monet, and we can see rhythm in the shapes of these trees. They're very vertical, very organic. And then we can also see some rhythm in the shape of the road and how that's repeated in the Hill, Another work by Claude Monet. We can obviously see a lot of rhythm in the verticals that create the trunks of all of these trees. And even in the distant trees where those lines or not is explicit, we still understand that they're there. And so they became an almost implied rhythm. And then, of course, we have the organic shapes of the leaves and branches of the trees as well, and then even more subtle in the shrubbery. Down here at the base of the trees which also minnix that organic shape. Another painting by Claude Monet. He, of course, is one of the greatest masters of Impressionism. We see a really nice motif and repetition here in the plants that are showing through the water. So there varied in their direction their length there, angles but still a very good indication of rhythm. And then in the distance we can see another rhythm with these hills landmass and then these man made structures, so that creates almost a secondary rhythm within this composition. In this painting, I think that one of the most obvious rhythms is in these round organic shapes that create many of the trees. Of course, they're not all so round, but they do seem Teoh mimic one another. And then we have a secondary rhythm with these distant trees. And these, almost to me remind me of musical notes there in the background, and we can see those repeated and slightly varied throughout the composition There in the distance. This painting by Joaquin Suroyo has a little bit more subtle rhythm because the values air so close, so they're not quite as obvious. But we have have rhythm in those organic shapes and then just within that tree itself, there's lots of opportunity for repetition and motif with the branches and then also with some implied lines. 5. Analyzing the Masters -- Movement: Let's look at some more master works by the Great Impressionists and let's analyze for movement this time. So in this first painting by walking Saraya, the viewers eyes lead into the composition through these implied lines, leading us out to sea and then the action in the distance that is then repeated in this very energetic sky. In this painting by Claude Monet, we have a very strong sense of movement because these forms are leading our I into the composition up the hill. But we also have a tangent, as you can see where I've placed a large yellow dot and that creates the focal point for this painting. We also have lots of repetition with sailboats and some of those vertical posts. And then I'm adding some lines to the sky just to indicate that the sky is very still. There's not a lot of movement there in this painting by Anders Zorn. We have a very strong sense of movement, and we also have a lot of contrast in here, not just in terms of values and colors, but in terms of movement. So you can see here we have a lot of movement, a lot of action and energy. And then we have that contrast ID by a very still sky and then very still calm waters as well. In this painting by Claude Monet, we have a lot of energy and ah, lot of movement. So the first sense that I get with movement leading us into the composition through this water and then up into the sky. And there's lots of energy there through and through, and this is one of my favorites by walking Saraya. This is an interesting perspective, but we can see we get this almost spiral movement leading our I around the composition and the water, even though we can see some wakes. By contrast, it's very still. 6. Analyzing the Masters -- Rhythm + Movement: and finally, let's examine some of the master works and these air some great examples that incorporate both a strong sense of rhythm and movement in the composition. So here in this first painting by Claude Monet, we can see a lot of repetition in the organic shapes of the trees and then by some of the vertical lines, whether there a parent or implied. And then we also get a really strong sense of movement from this pathway that's leading us into the composition thes nice curved lines that create the horizon line. This painting by John Singer Sargent definitely has some very strong rhythms with these verticals creating these lovely palm trees. And it's not just the trunks of these trees, but we also have a lot of rhythm in all these organic shapes in these almost circular shapes of the palm trees, movement isn't quite a strong, and a lot of that is because there just isn't a lot of foreground here, But we do get some sense of movement in this composition, and then here, this painting by walking Suroyo. We have a very clear sense of rhythm with the's vertical lines that our trees, we also have a good sense of movement through these curved diagonal lines that leader I into the composition and then around it, and then also a nice contrast with the sky. That's very still, another painting by John Singer Sargent's. The rhythm here is not quite so obvious, but we can't achieve rhythm within just one single form through the branches. And then we have some nice vertical elements in here. And then a very subtle sense of movement with the curved horizon for that hill, the curved clouds and then otherwise, that Skye is very calm and still, by contrast. And now this painting by Claude Monet, where we have a lot of rhythm created again by these organic shapes of the trees, where they very in size. And then that's reflected in these shorter shrubbery Z's. And then we have a lot of movement, although it's not so clear because we don't have a clear pathway. But the way that the foreground is formatted leads us into the composition and then a relatively still sky. And in this painting by Monet, we have again lots of rhythm with these organic trees, these verticals repeated in the distance and then contrast ID with some man made shapes. It's a more organic shapes here by the shoreline, and then we have a strong sense of movement through these curved, implied lines created by the shore. And then, by contrast, the sky is very still in serene. In this painting by Monet, my favorite thing about it is that we have this motif of red, so that creates a really nice rhythm through color. And then that's actually repeated throughout the rest of the painting, where we just see little spots of red, even the satchel on the figure walking in the composition is red, and then we obviously have a really nice path that gives us some movements. And this is one of my favorite paintings because there's just so many amazing things going on here. So this is a walking Surroi. A piece and weaken see a sense of rhythm in all of these shapes that are a little bit larger at the bottom and more pointed at the top. And then we also get a really strong sense of movement through directional force so we can see that we have a figure here and we begin to look in the direction that the figure seems to be looking. And then the action created by the waves leaves us deeper and deeper into the composition where we finally see that crashing wave in the distance and then a very calm sky, by contrast. 7. Finding Rhythm & Movement in the "Real World": And now that I've spoiled you with some beautiful compositions by the great Impressionist masters woods, take a look at some of my snapshots that I'm considering using for the demonstration for this course. So let's examine thes and see if they contain enough queues for rhythm and movement to be good examples for this course. So in this 1st 1 I can see a lot of rhythm, obviously, through these vertical lines for the trees. But movement is just a little bit trickier because we don't have a lot of contrasts. We don't have much foreground. The lake kind of blends in with the distant trees a little bit too much, so I don't think that one will work now. In this composition, we have some rhythm in these distant trees, although there isn't much and it's a little bit static. Overall, I think I could probably push the movement a little bit if I kind of emphasize some lines that aren't really there or that aren't very strong, so I could exaggerate that a little bit in this composition again, I could use the trees to create a sense of rhythm and repetition, although there isn't a lot of variation in size. And then there's a lot of movement and energy up in the sky, whereas by contrast, the entire bottom half of this composition would be very still. So this couldn't possibly work and be a little bit different now in this composition, the trees and the horizon line while the horizon line is very close to the top of the composition, which doesn't leave us a lot of room, Teoh create repetition and rhythm through distant trees. Although I'm in Nebraska, so we don't have a lot of trees anyway. But we could exaggerate some of the rhythms in these lines on the bank right here. And then. Of course, we could also create a good sense of movement through the water that seems to be leading us into the distance. This composition is very green, and so if I were going to paint this, that would be a major challenge. But we're not looking at color right now, just rhythm and movement. So we have a lot of rhythm, of course, with the shapes of the trees again. And now we actually have some nice rhythm with this wispy long grass Here in the foreground , which is very subtly repeated back here a little bit more in the distance. And then there is a good sense of movement just by virtue of having a pathway here. That always is a good way to incorporate a bit of movement into the composition and then some curved lines, creating a lot of hills. In this composition, we have a little bit of rhythm, with three organic shapes again of the trees. That, of course, is just one of the most obvious ways to get some rhythm into your composition is just having trees, especially if they're of a similar type than their shape will tend to be repeated in some way. And then we get an interesting movement here that takes us into the composition and then around and into the focal point, which would be that distant tree right there. And in this composition, we don't have a lot of very obvious rhythm, but there is some in here, of course, those distant trees and then even more distant trees back there. But what I think is more interesting about this composition is the sense of movement. Of course, this river that's half frozen and half flowing brings us into the composition, but then we have these kind of ripples and wakes that creates a movement and some rhythm. 8. Exaggerating Rhythm & Movement: I decided to go with this basic composition, but it is going to need some help and a little bit of work. I like the rhythm that I see in the trees, and there's also some variation kind of built into that. And then I also like the secondary rhythm that I could see myself exaggerating in the long , wispy grasses in the mid ground. But there isn't much movement in this composition. I took this just on the road. I was in the passenger seat of my mom's car. We were driving to an airport, and something about this just inspired me. So as usual, I whipped out my phone camera and just took a quick snapshot. So we don't have much leading the eye of the viewer into this composition, and that is where I'm going to need to do a little bit of work. So I'm going to use the simple photo editing application I have on my phone just to bring in a piece of another photograph that I took to add a little bit of movement. So here you can see if can outlined where I see all of the rhythms in this composition and so I think that there's a lot we can do with it. But like I said, it's kind of need just a little bit of help. So here's another photo that I took that same day, which is important because we have the same lighting situation. Now. I'm not even really sure what inspired me initially to take this photo. I think it was maybe just the subtle greens in the grass, but I do see some opportunity to really exaggerate and push some lines to help create a little bit of movements. And this is kind of what I envision. I've basically just used my editing software on my phone Teoh crop that second image and then use a collage feature to add it to the first image. And now I've created some implied lines that are a little bit more curved and hopefully will help lead the eye of the viewer into this composition. And then the grass kind of creates a directional upward force, and then we have that nice rhythm in the trees and the calm sky 9. Demo: Sketching to Problem-Solve: since creating rhythm and movement in this composition is going to be a bit of a challenge and will require me to do quite a bit of exaggerating. My sketching process is going to be a bit more involved than what I typically dio. Typically, I'm content just to kind of sketch in the big shapes and the major contrasts and values. This time, however, I want to really make sure that I am hitting on both the rhythm elements of this composition as well as the movement. So I'm doing this first little sketch here with just some ink and water, because one thing I do forsee being very challenging in this composition, our values. So I want to make sure that I have a really good value map and I can see where I'll have more contrast here in the foreground, creating those implied lines. And then I want things to be a little bit more mellow toward the middle, although I'm going to have a dash of red in there to create a nice rhythm through color. And then, of course, that nice light calm sky. Next thing I'm going to do is start thinking about how I'm going to push color because I do want to use color a little bit to create rhythm and also to help with that sense of movement. So if we think back about atmospheric perspective, will know that things are a little bit more rich and saturated in the foreground. So I want to really capture the richness of the foreground, that field leading us into the distance. But then I really would like tohave some sense of there being this nice red bright streak where the grasses are. But I don't want to overdo that. I don't want it to be distracting, and I don't want the composition to all look like one value with just some dark trees in the background. So that is something that I anticipate really struggling with, and that's what I'm going to really focus on with this sketch. So here I'm just using watercolor to kind of lay things in and see how I might be able to manipulate the cues that I have in my composited photo reference to create a really good sense of rhythm and movement. And I think that movement is going to be the more challenging concept to really incorporate into the reference that I chose so you can see here. I already am struggling. I have too much saturation back toward where the field of short grass meets the tall grass . So I'm going in with some white wash to sort of tone that down, lighting up the value so that I have a decent atmospheric perspective, even though the sense of space in this composition isn't very immense, so I'm just kind of playing around. Of course, since it's a sketch, it doesn't need to look wonderful by any means. This is really where you should do all of your experimenting and problem solving, and I do always try to do a sketch also because I may not even be aware of some of the problems I'm going to encounter when I'm actually painting the composition. So this makes me just a little bit more aware, and I can also start thinking about the general colors I want to use 10. Demo: Painting Rhythm & Movement: for the painting demonstration. In this course, it's just going to be a time lapse of my process. Working on this composition, however, I do have this full video in real time on my YouTube channel, which is called Rachel. Retaliate So you can check that out if you would like more detail on the process. And I also encourage you to check out my other skill share courses where I go into detail explaining everything that I dio when I paint with oils. Now, of course, for your own projects, you don't need to use oil paint. You can use any medium that you want because the concepts of composition in landscape applied Teoh every medium. So here I will just give a general overview of my process. I always start with a toned surface, and I choose Red just because that's what I have found that I like to work on top of. But there's lots of people who tone with other colors or people who don't tone at all. It's really a matter of personal preference, and then I begin my sketch with my darkest colors, and I block in those darkest values, and I try to keep in mind that I need to simplify and mass many of those very complicated organic shapes. As I progress, I will start using lighter values of colors and that in general, especially in terms of oil painting is something that most oil painters follow. Working from our darkest values toe are lightest values, and here you can see I'm really focusing on emphasizing thes implied lines that will create the bit of movement that I want in this composition. So I know that I'm going to have to exaggerate those. They're not very readily apparent in my photo reference, and so I'm actually relying more on my sketches than I am. The photo reference for the painting, and then the lightest value for this painting will be the sky, so I'm just quickly blocking that in. You can see that at this stage the painting is quite crude, but it's important just to get your major colors and values blocked in, so that you have those very simple shapes in place, and then you can begin working to dio some refining of shapes and colors. So here I am, going back into the trees, adding just a little bit of color in here and one thing I forgot to mention. But you may have noticed my color palette is a little bit different than what I typically use in my videos. This is called the Zorn Palate. It's the palate made famous by the great Impressionist artist Anders Zorn, and we looked at maybe one or two of his paintings in the beginning of this course, and I encourage you to check him out. The main thing here is that I'm using black ivory black instead of blue. I don't have any blue on my palette. I'm using black instead yellow Oakar and then a cadmium red. I think this is a cadmium red light and then, of course, white. But you can see that even though I'm using black and yellow Oakar and still getting some nice greens. And I felt like this was a good color palette for the statement I was trying to make through this composition, which is one of a kind of a calm fall day, and I think so far here you can see I've been able to maintain that little bit of movement that I wanted in the foreground. Of course, that could be easily lost by fiddling with things a little bit too much. And now I'm really focusing on creating some rhythm in those distant trees. I have their organic shapes in place, and now I'm just going in and adding some of the vertical trunks and branches but varying them in size. And, you know, in some places those lines are explicitly painted in and in other places, there really just implied. And with Impressionist painting, that's really important to leave some things unarticulated. Leave them up to the imagination of the viewer. So here I'm just kind of refining some colors, making sure that I maintain a sense of atmosphere, perspective and movements. And that's it. It was kind of a simple painting, but I think it was a good example of the very simple and often subtle ways that we can incorporate rhythm and movement into our landscape compositions. 11. Final Thoughts : thank you so much for joining me in this course on landscape composition, rhythm and movements. I hope that you learned a lot and enjoy this course. And I also hope that you'll consider doing your own painting where you focus on these concepts and consider posting them in the project section of this course. I would love to give you some feedback. And if you have any questions at all, please post them in the discussion. Thank you so much. And happy painting.