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point of view

A small study on composition within the two- dimensional picture plane:

Composition: The key is in the quality of relationships. The relationships between elements, which comprise a pleasing arrangement of shapes, color, tone. By creating strong lines for the viewer’s eyes to follow, you are setting up the picture plane.

The composition can convey the mood you desire.


  • disparity between shapes

  • contrast of values. Think color as well as in simplified black and white work such as the paintings by Franz Kline, 1910-1962

  • selective color saturation

  • the fact that a color alters when next to other color, drawing eye to where we want eye to move

  • create sense of tension, movement

  • make shapes advance or recede

Three Historical Rules:

In geometry, a Golden Spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is the Golden Ratio.

Golden Ratio - The idea was started by the ancient Greeks, who were strong believers in the Platonic concept of ideals. They believed that all things, both tangible and intangible, have a perfect state of being that define them.

Greek mathematicians, after repeatedly seeing familiar proportions in nature and geometry, developed a mathematical formula for what they considered an ideal rectangle: a rectangle whose sides are at a 1:1.62 ratio.

They felt that all objects whose proportions exhibited this were more pleasing, whether a building, work of art, or face. To this day, books and credit cards conform to this ideal.

Rule of Thirds - This is the most basic of composition rules. This rule suggests that if you divide any composition into thirds, vertically and horizontally, then place the key elements of your image along these lines or at the junctions of them, you will have a more pleasing arrangement. If you superimpose a grid over your image, you will be more easily able to see the division of space.

The Rule of Thirds works because it demands that the artist make one element more dominant than another. This dominance creates an imbalance, and an imbalance of any sort will attract the viewer’s eye.

Bisecting an image perfectly in half creates the least amount of interest, because everything is equally balanced.

Making one area of your composition more dominant creates tension, and thus adds interest. It also makes your eye more around the visual to compare the relationships. The composition could potentially be divided into other components and as long as there is imbalance, tension will exist. Imbalance also includes color and value, another option for added drama.

By creating strong lines for the eyes to follow, we can decide what path we want people to take and where we want that path to end. The ‘line’ can be an actual line or a dominant shape or form within the work. The borders of your composition are an implied line too. A horizon line can be tipped to a gentle or exaggerated diagonal line for psychological drama. These different angles offer an alternative for the vertical and horizontal planes. Imagine the length of a fence or structure. By angling the line, you have included a surprise in the composition. Use leading lines - the viewer’s eye will tend to follow its movement through the frame.

The Rule of Thirds seems to work within the general arrangements of foreground, middle ground and background. When your image is just a few inches tall, high contrast compositions work well. Rarely are equal amounts of each successful. By letting the composition be dominated by grey, the small accents of white and black become the attention and draw our eye toward the subject.


narrative of the medium

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