Composition In Art

Good composition in art can help to make a painting great. However, a bad composition can ruin a potentially good painting.

A good composition will lead the eye of the viewer into the painting; quite often through the foreground to the point of main interest. Then, it will continue to lead the eye of the viewer around the painting, keeping the eye of the viewer within the pictorial area of the painting. And not allowing the eye of the viewer to wander outside the painting.  

“The Rule Of The Thirds”

For good composition in art try the rule of the thirds. It is a very simplified system for designing a painting.

You will start by dividing the canvas into thirds, both horizontal and vertical.  Then, you place your subjects or points of interest on one or more of the four intersecting lines. Check out the examples below.

For good composition in art you should also,

  • define the total area of interest showing the subjects within,
  • try to have a main dominant or primary subject, and a subordinate or secondary subject,
  • never place either of these dead center,
  • never divide a painting in half.

Examples of Composition

Here is a typical example of a composition. Notice how the roadway tends to lead us towards the first and most predominate house, (the primary element). Then we are nudged towards the secondary  element. And so on.  A bad example would be the roadway going out of the picture. This will lead the viewer out of the picture, and possibly to never return. Avoid this at all costs!img_0018

Now, in what we call a tunnel composition, we will place foreground objects in such a way as to lead the viewers eye directly into the middle ground where the points of interest are usually located


In some paintings we might have the general area of interest spread out across the painting in a horizontal band; usually located on or near the horizon line. Then, having the points of interest located somewhere along this band


“The Artist Path”

You will find this in some paintings. It is a visual pathway that generally starts in the foreground and proceeds to wind it’s way into the painting. It can be a walking pathway, a road, a waterway or even the play of light on objects within the painting.

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