Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Movement: Elements of Composition

Excerpted from Painting: - Elements of Composition: Movement

Movement is the creation of a sense of an ebb and flow through a painting which turns it from passive wallpaper to a dynamic extension of the viewer’s psyche, the creation of a inter-reaction that takes the viewer on a path of discovery.

When creating movement in a painting, think about the choreography of the process, what you are revealing to the audience, what is being left to the imagination. A painting should be a question, not an answer. Calling to the audience's imagination allows different viewers to interact in different ways, which is why it’s recommended you always leave something unsaid in a painting, to give the audience the chance of a unique interaction.

The painting should reveal itself slowly to the audience, it should offer nooks and crannies that lead off the main path. In other words, the painting should be a journey not the destination. A painting which offers only a static viewpoint is no better than a holiday snap (it would provide the photographer with a key to their memories, but merely be an arbitrary image to anyone not emotionally involved). The artist should encourage the viewer to interact with the subject, to learn and grow. The painting can be a simple anecdote, or an heroic tale, but it should speak to the viewer with the joy of a story being unraveled.

The artist is a conductor, bringing the viewer’s eye through the painting using a myriad of techniques which give the painting a feel of motion, either through space, or time, or even emotion. Movement can be given in a painting through a strong fundamental image, say the flowing of a river; by the light of a gentle evening sun, which implies the passing of a day; or through the emotion of a portrait embellished by surrounding iconic symbolism, that shows how the figure arrived at that feeling. Movement can also be achieved through the effect of growth or decay. A vibrancy that infuses the subject, and says to the viewer, this is life, this is motion.

{Paragraph deleted because I don't buy into the idea that we 'read' pictures from left to right and top to bottom. I've never parsed a picture that way - I can instantly tell the difference between an image and text, and I assume everyone else can too. I also don't buy that people's eyes enter at the bottom, unless the image is life sized and positioned to create the illusion of being a real space. My eye is drawn immediately to areas of greatest contrast, to faces, or to other striking parts of the image.}

Movement can be indicated by the flow of objects in the painting, their arrangement and pattern; through the use of perspective. Movement can be implied by the direction that figures face -- a passive painting would have a synergistic grouped direction, whereas randomness in the direction of figures will give a wildness, and energetic vitality to a painting.

Next the artist can consider the use of color (including such optical effects as blue moving away from the eye, and red approaching it); brush stroke (mark making can add to the flow of the painting through their direction, as well as giving a velocity to the movement through variation in the size of brush stroke); the pattern of light and shade; and tone (which is important to peripheral vision, and therefore can draw the eye away from a central subject). Consider reinforcing the main directions of movement by echoing (for example, making the clouds in the sky flow in the same way as the waves on the sea) and cycling (bringing the eye back to the starting point, so the journey can begin anew).

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