Creating a Balanced Composition

Composing a drawing or painting has many similarities to composing a musical arrangement. In music there is a structured hierarchy of sound – each instrument serves a purpose, distinctive in it’s part, and yet all the instruments strive to be united as a whole. The notes rise and fall (some are melodic, some are rhythmic, some are high and some are even demanding) creating an energetic flow of sound. These patterns of rhythmic energy can be found in a visual composition as well. The energy is translated into lines, values, shapes, colors and edges instead of sounds.

The example below is a painting by Rembrandt Van Rijn, and demonstrates a classical approach to composing a portrait using value emphasis.  The focal point is obviously the face which has the highest degree of contrasting values.  Because the background and surrounding areas are so dark, they seem to recede into an inky blackness and become obscure to the viewer. Just using value, the artist has managed to compose a painting with a distinctive focal point.

black & white rembrandt

Rembrandt Van Rijn, Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul

There are many more great examples that I’d like to post but I’ll do that in future blogs.


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