Join Mary Jane Begin for an in-depth discussion in this video Seeing in shape, part of The Elements of Composition for Illustrators.
- It's one thing to look at a graphic image and understand it as a series of shapes, but quite another when you're looking at a detailed illustration. The shapes of elements and complex images may be less clear when you're trying to analyze it for good composition. The easiest way to figure out if the composition that you've created is balanced and working well is to look at the picture in simpler terms. Creating a sketch in value, both as a rough and render sketch, helps to define the composition because it gives some clarity to the shapes of its elements.
Seeing shapes based on value in a scene is especially important if light plays a role in fragmenting an object or figure. Or, throw a piece of trace paper over an image and draw a line around the silhouette of shapes. The silhouette is the dark shape or outline of someone or something, visible against a lighter background. Outlining the shapes can also give you a clear idea of how the elements are fitting together on the page, without fussing with the small details or getting caught up in the subject matter. As you look at the shapes in this way, it's easier to see how they fit together as a whole.
Seeing the illustration as a series of shapes helps to identify a symmetrical or asymmetrical composition, and how we can track the shapes from darkest value to lightest. Ideally, the darkest and highest level of contrast is also the focal point. The focal point is a spot in the image that you want the viewer to look at first. By removing issues of color and even texture, and simply seeing the edges of the shapes in value, you can compare their relative sizes or proportions, one against the other.
The eye is naturally drawn to larger shapes, so if the larger shape creates contrast but is not the focal point, you wanna be sure it's directing the eye back to the area of focus, even if the focal shape is small. This is where color and texture can help to direct the eye back to a smaller, but perhaps more important, element in an illustration. Seeing the illustration as a puzzle, with pieces that fit together, helps to simplify creating a composition in the early stages of development, and can help identify when the composition needs more visual punch.
It can also be useful as you put the finishing touches on an illustration, or at any step along the way. Don't be afraid to fine-tune the composition to make it more powerful. The strength of an illustration is measured in how well it communicates its content. Or, said another way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This course will help to clarify best practices for developing any artistic or illustrated composition. Shaping the elements; marrying concept to composition; engaging the editing eye; achieving balance, unity, directional movement, and perspective; and exploring point of view and focal points are all topics covered in these lessons. Author (and professional artist) Mary Jane Begin also explores the major and minor pitfalls of a weak composition and explains the six compositional rules that lead to the best end results! See the steps in action in the final chapter, where Mary Jane designs a concept for lynda.com.
Then share what you've learned with the lynda.com community. Take the three challenges Mary Jane issues in the course and post your results to Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #learnatlynda. We can't wait to see your illustrations!
- Directing with lines
- Designing the negative space
- Creating a consistency of style
- Adding movement with dynamic diagonals, edges, and contrast
- Creating depth of field with perspective
- Using—and breaking—the rules
- Choosing a size and medium for artwork