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Composition - Why it’s the most exciting thing about painting.

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Why it’s the most exciting thing about painting. A puzzle to piece together. Just the word “Composition” is root word is compose. Like to compose yo

urself. To be composed, is to stay calm, not loose it. Be balanced and zen like.

Before I painted, I don’t think I ever thought so much about composition. This is a topic, an attribute pretty much talked about in art, in photography, maybe floral arrangement and other things that you need to aesthetically lay out in a such a way that is pleasing to the eye.

Now this is where things get really fascinating to me. What pleases the eye and what doesn’t. And why???? Isn’t this the most bizarre thing? Why cutting up a photo into 3rds is more pleasing than halves or quarters? Why we like to see odd numbers rather than evens? Why does contrasting shapes and sizes, values and hues is more pleasing than flat-ness? Why why why?

Before I started painting, I never really thought much about design, art, photography. When I picked clothes to wear, I don’t think about how it ‘looks’ together. I don’t try to figure out a ‘balanced’ look to when I plate my food, or chose my bed linen. I guess you could call me a design-dud. I just never took notice or thought it important at all.

Maybe I subliminally did know how to avoid something that looks too clashing or something too bare. And intrinsically I knew some kind composition rules? But I didn’t.

Also, none of the art classes i ever took in school ever talked about composition, colour theory or anything of that sort. Let’s just say, in Singapore, the art cirriculumn is quite rubbish, well in my school anyway, and I don’t think the teachers were even qualified art teachers. So I was never school in any kind art making theory in any of my art classes throughout my school years.

That said, back to WHY. Why is a beautifully composed piece of art nice to look at vs crap composition? I get the golden ratio / fibinacci sequence thing. Coz that occurs in nature (shells, flower, waves, heads etc). And what exists in nature is pleasing to the eye because we evolved thousands of year with it. But what about rule of thirds? What about the cross and the S curves, rule of odd numbers?

How about composing a song? Is painting like music? There are notes (colours), and rhythm (values?) rules that exist, but we are the ones that use those rules to put something together to create something beautiful?

And isn't "composition" just at the heart of creativity? When we create something from nothing, when we put together something totally new and unique, even if its 'copied' from somewhere, your own mark will never be exactly the same as another, isn't that the ultimate sense of feeling like you exist? That you matter?

I am not even sure where this blog post, or essay is taking me. But as an art newbie, I find this an incredibly rich topic.

And I like that it exists outside of me. It’s me looking at the world. Observing stuff ‘out there’. And I think this is coming from a deep part of me that is maybe avoiding the shit storm that happens inside. The chaos. The insanity. Ah yes.

Ok before we go too deep. My point is back to this. Composition. And my deep love and fascination with it. Are you also loving this topic? I love to discuss more. If you know of any teachers, videos, books that you feel are a great source of information about composition, please feel free to share with me in the comments below.

Otherwise, taking a breath of fresh air. The sun is shining a bit more brightly these days here in Melbourne. And spring is slowing sprunging up, which means, more painting flowers for me.


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1 Comment

Shanna Allen Sisak
Shanna Allen Sisak
Aug 26, 2023

Oh my gosh I am with you on this. I was so intimidated by composition in my early stages. Still am at times. It’s an elusive concept that I havent really found any good “teaching“ material for. I think it’s just inside of us, like you said. Ive only been painting since early 2021 and never know a thing about composition before that. But recently I found some old photos I took 15+ years ago or flowers at a botanical garden. And guess what!?!? I had a serious eye for composition back then! I didn’t even know what I was doing! I was shocked to see this. I literally followed composition “rules” without even knowing it. Just so awesome!

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