I am so happy you are taking this step to improve your art. I know how important your art is to you.
I hope the class lives up to your expectations. If you feel that anything is missing or that you're not getting what you expected or need LET ME KNOW - please! The class isn't cast in stone and I can add to it at any time. The more you help me create this class, the better it will serve you.
And a reminder...as with anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. These lessons are chock full of great information but all learning comes from DOING. In this case that means doing the exercises. I don't include them for fluff or just to make the class look good. They are for you. You learn better & faster by applying what you are learning.
You have made this investment in youself. Now you need to commit to doing the work. Students typically start out all gung-ho and full of good intentions with a new class but then time goes on and life interrupts your passion and intention. You let it all fall to the bottom of the list and as time goes on, you just give up rather than catch-up.
The best way to avoid this is to set aside time on you calendar RIGHT NOW. You have the class schedule, so go enter Compose+Yourself appointments on class delivery days and block out 2+/- hours each week to work on the class.
Don't be like this...
OK? Is it a deal? You get out of it what you put into it.
THINGS TO KNOW
Each class wil be delivered on a Thursday, according to the class schedule. All content will be available here for you to access forever.
Content for each lesson will be in BLACK.
Stories & Insights will be in TEAL.
Home Work & Play will be in RED.
The Compose+Yourself flickr group is for you to post all/any images from the class that you would like to share with the group.
The class Google group is a place place to talk about anything/everything you feel like talking about with your fellow artists in the group. You don't have to join or participate (even lurking is good too), but experience shows that you get more out of a class by sharing, asking questions and speaking up.
The focus of this class is art - composition for art to be exact. But not everything I share or everyone I quote will be specifically art-related. Ask my kids - I can't resist the urge to share life wisdom or insights. I believe it makes us better people. Plus the more aware we are of how and why we think and act, the better we get to know ourselves. The better we know ourselves, the more we can put into our art. It all feeds into your art soul. You really can't separate yourself from your art because your art is who you are.
What we create is a part of our self at a moment in time - a transfer from our internal spirit to external reality.
If you have any questions at any time, just click on Contact at the top of the page or email me at Lesley @ ArtistSuccess.com. I'm here to help!
So let's begin~
WHAT IS COMPOSITION?
It depends on who you ask. I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, as my Mom would say, but it really does depend on who you ask. And that's where all the confusion arises. It's like trying to define a feeling - there is no exact answer.
Good composition is an elusive target. Unlike the boiling point of water, there is no exact point in creating your art where it all comes together in what you would call perfect composition. It exists on a sliding scale.
There is no perfect composition so let me tell you this right now - Do not aim for perfection. You will never make it. Go for good. Go for better. Go for your best. But don't try to be perfect, not here in this class or in anything you attempt. Perfect is an endlessly moving target. It always has been and always will be out of reach. Do not get caught up in perfection paralysis.
Let's first take a look at the simplest definitions and explanations for composition:
A putting together of parts or elements to form a whole; a combining. ~ Tim McCreight from Design Language
The arrangement of visual forces in space; synonymous with design. ~ Steve Aimone from Design! A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists & Craftspeople
Designing, organizing or structuring a picture. Harry Sternberg from Composition: The Anatomy of Picture Making (Dover Art Instruction)
a : the act or process of composing; specifically: arrangement into specific proportion or relation and especially into artistic form. Merriam Webster dictionary
Composition is the freedom of a thing to be its greatest best by being in its right place in the organization. It is just a sense of the relation of things.
A sense. That's a good way to describe it, but not very useful when you are trying to teach someone how to arrive at it.
Composition is a range, not a finite target. It goes from bad - glaring outpoints that everyone notices; to good - subtle nuances that only the trained eye can detect; to great - work that sings!
In Compose+Yourself, you will learn to train your eye to detect areas and elements in your art that can be adjusted to create better composition and as a result, better art. Most times you know something is off, but you just can't quit figure it out. Let me tell you why:
I'm going to go all science on you here for a minute. We humans rely on our senses to survive. From the beginning we have relied on our eyes to quickly evaluate what we see and categorize it as safe or not, friend or foe, good/bad, desireable/undesireable, etc. We are not conditioned to see details.On the contrary, our ears are more sensitive to detail and subtle nuance. Our ears easily pick up indicators, nuances and outpoints that we need in order to survive.
"Is that my babies hunger cry or is she tired?"
"Did she sound sincere?"
"Hey, I bet you're from Canada"
and something we can easily hear in OffKey_Music.
So how do you train your eye? First by learning to see, really see, not just look. There's an exercise for that coming next week. Once you learn how to see, you will focus in on the most important ingredient of all compositions - you.
After that we will turn to the foundations of all art, the elements and principles. The elements and principles were not created for art. They are by-products of art. They are the structures upon which art is built. You already use them intuitively. You've used them all your life. It's how we see the world. Most likely, up until now you just didn't know what you were seeing.
I was born an artist. (So were you. We all are.) But along about 4th grade I came to the conclusion that I could never be a real artist because I couldn't naturally draw realistically. I had no natural talent. My best friend, Patty Donohue, did. So did Diane Kuzio, who sat next to me in my high school art class. It came naturally to them, but not me.
I didn't give up though. Those after-school and high school art classes weren't working for me so I found a way around it. I turned to craft - quilting to be specific, and a little macrame. I also adored collage. But secretly, I still dreamed of being a real artist. I was in awe of real artists. I wanted to know what they knew and do what they did - create works of beauty that moved and inspired others.
I continued to study 'how to be an artist', reading every book I could. (Where was the Internet when I needed it?) I kept coming across the phrase 'to see like an artist.' Aha! Artists saw differently. I knew there was a secret! (NB. Did you notice that I didn't say I was drawing all this time. How stupid naive I was to think that I could learn to draw without actually drawing!)
Next I set out to find exactly how and what they were seeing. It wasn't until 1983 when I took APDS 101, Fundamentals of Design, that it all clicked. I began to see like an artist.
When most people see a flower shop all they see are flowers. When an artist sees a flower shop, she sees, line, shape, hue, value, space, texture, repetition, proportion, COLOR and more.
Artists notice. They dissect. They look to see the parts and look again to see how they combine to form the whole. They file it away for future reference.
In Class 2 and 3 you will learn how to hone your skills so that you too see like an artist. If you already do see like an artist (good for you!), you will learn how to sharpen and perfect your skills and add in the most necessary element of all - you!
The good news is that you already compose yourself everyday. Each time you get dressed, style your hair, put on make-up or cook and plate a meal. These are daily acts of composition. Some of us have more practice than others, depending on our age!
WHAT COMPOSITION DOES AND DOESN'T DO
Composition is a means to creating better art. Understanding composition helps you solve problems you encounter when you are creating art. Composition can make you a better artist.
Composition is a result and a by-product. Composition happens whether you pay attention to it or not. Just as some people can have a natural talent for drawing, others can have a natural talent for composition. They do it intuitively. The opposite is also true. Some people are composition-blind (like tone-deaf) and they just don't see that it's off. Most of us fall somewhere in-between.
Once I learned to see like an artist (and because I love to learn), I took it upon myself to figure out why some artworks were more successful than others. Armed with all the proper terminology and techniques, a measuring stick and check sheet by which to judge what good composition was, I discovered that good composition does not always equal good art.
Composition skills do not ensure the art will be a success. For every rule of composition there are wonderful examples of art that totally breaks the rules.
Have you ever seen a painting or work of art that is technically perfect but leaves you cold? Or been drawn into a piece that has obvious flaws or is less than perfect?
Composition and technical skills should always be secondary to YOU. You are the most important element of your art. You must be willing to be less than perfect in order to create art that reasonates with others. Perfection is the enemy. You, your story, your vision - you are the hero. We'll get deeper into this in next week's class.
WHY YOU NEED TO COMPOSE YOURSELF
Robert Henri says "The real study of an art student is more a development of that sensitive nature and appreciative imagination of which he was so fully endowed when a child, and which, unfortunately in almost all cases, the contact with grown-ups shames out of him before he has passes into what is understood as real life."
I believe we all still have that sensitive nature but so many of us are afraid to expose it. Echoes of "weirdo", "you're too sensitive," "that makes no sense," or "what is that???," may crop up when we get the urge to create or do something that hasn't already been seen before. We make safe work because we fear people won't understand. Many won't. But those who matter will.
You will succeed the weirder you get. ~ Chris Brogan
When I began creating Fragments back in 1999 I was madly in love with what I was doing but worried about letting others see them. They weren't quilts and they weren't collage. My first naive stupid reaction was, "These don't look like anything I've ever seen before."
And then it hit me. "These don't look like anything I've ever seen before!" I was finally creating in my own voice. The work was uniquely mine. I was creating from my heart and had reached that point where my soul was made visible.
I was still scared to death to show them to anyone but they instantly struck a chord with everyone who saw them. I realized then it wasn't just about the art, it was me that people were responding to. I was sharing the way I see the world and they could relate to that.
What is most personal is most universal.
Carl R. Rogers
It took me decades of study and searching to find all the answers I was looking for. I had looked everywhere but inside myself. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when Glinda the Good Witch told her she had the power with her all along. And to think - how many times did I watch that movie and not get the message? Sometimes (most times) what you are looking for is right under your nose, just like Dorothy's ruby slippers.
I'll make the process easier and for you, and it won't take decades. I promise.
I have tried to keep the materials list as basic and inexpensive as possible. You may already have many of these items. You will be able to find everything you need at your local craft, office or art supply store. Many basic items are even available at your local drug store. (Click on links to see specifics)
- White chalk
- Crayons - small box
- Glue & glue sticks
- Tracing paper
- Black markers (Pigma Micron 005, 03 and 08 and Pigma Graphic #2 recommended)
- Construction paper: red, black, white and a neutral (gray if you can find it, or blue if not). Individual color packs are available at craft stores and DickBlick (see link)
- X-acto knife w/#11 blade and cutting mat (optional)
- 9 x 12" or 11" x 14" sketchbook or drawing pad - side spiral bound. (Strongly recommend either of these sizes)
- 12 or 18-inch ruler
- Old magazines - both art/craft and generic
- Photocopies of a few pieces of your artwork
- Art books for reference and home work&play
HOME WORK & PLAY
1. In your fresh, new 11 x 14" sketchbook dedicated to Compose+Yourself, if you have not already written down want you want to get out of this class, please do that first and remember to date it. You can't tell how far you come unless you mark where you have started. If you did it back when you registered, then do it again now, based on what you've learned so far.
2. Write your own definition of what composition is.
3. Take a crayon and make a small mark on every single page in the sketchbook. Once you "ruin" it you will be more comfortable using it.
Screwing things up is a virtue. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea. ~ Robert Rauschenberg
Your sketchbook is also the place to record your thoughts and ideas. It is yours to use any way you want. Once we get into the art homework & play chances are ideas will start popping for other projects. Record them as soon as they happen and then get back to the task at hand.
Remember this: The work/play you do in your sketch book is neither good or bad. Your only measure of success should be, "Did I do it?" Learning comes from doing.
4. Join the Compose+Yourself Google Group. This is where you can communicate with the other students in the class, read over past student comments and where you can ask me questions during the class. Click on this link and sign in to Google.
5. Visit the Compose+Yourself Flickr group and try uploading a test image. Uploading your homework assignments is optional but I will comment and answer any questions on the work that is posted. If you have the time, feel free to peruse the work and comments from previous sessions of the class.
See you next week!