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Composition, A few Words

We all know the word and what it means…….right? There is the technical definition which includes the various ELEMENTS and PRINCIPLES of DESIGN. Terms like dots, lines, shapes, texture, color, tone, and relationships such as distance, balance, space, and focal point. These are all things in the composition’s toolbox. A simple definition of composition is “The pleasing arrangement of lines, shapes, and colors….”. and this is what I will address here.

First and foremost, it matters little how well one can draw, paint, or sculpt if they lack understanding of composition, the composition is EVERYTHING. Without it, little else matters, not technical skill, or creative skill. A picture, a drawing, a painting, or a sculpture must have a balance and a flow in the art, it must lead you in, capture you, and please you (allow for an aesthetic experience).

At the beginning of an “energy drawing,” none of these statements apply, only the expressive and energetic application of graphite on paper, rotating and adding graphite 2H, then HB, 2B, 4B, etc., and adding the white with the erasers. This is pure unadulterated unthinking energy that until such time the messy lines begin to speak to me as in a narrative, and maybe show me a direction, a subject, and a possible theme. At this point, I begin to compose the mess, add subject, and structure. By structure, I mean to define the physical elements of line, shape, tone (light and dark), texture that support the subject, and movement across the drawing. By subject, I refer to the imagery be it a landscape or figure, or abstract.

Sometimes the subject becomes apparent after a few lines as what happened with “Lords of Stone and sky.”

Here I started with short angular lines at the bottom right of the paper. The “rockiness” of the lines inspired me to draw mountains, panoramic mountains, and the castle and winding road. The angel sculpture was an afterthought because the image needed balance and….well the guardian angel statue seemed to fit the theme.

The "Lords of Stone and Sky" was fun and exciting and once I got the subject, the theme was inspired by the HBO series "Game of Thrones." One of the Dornish Houses, I think it was Starfall used this title. 

When I start a drawing with a subject and theme, I usually make several thumbnail sketches first, chose the one closest to the composition I want, then rough out the drawing on the paper type and size. After that, I get “scribbly” with my lines working the drawing like the energy drawings.

The drawing isn’t finished until I am pleased with the composition.


Composition and Sculpture

The elements and principles of sculptural composition follow the same rules except in 3 dimensions. It is considerably more difficult because every facet, every turn, edge, texture, and shape needs to relate to the next; everything must have a visual flow on all sides. 

Drawing is essential for making sculptures, concept drawings, profile drawings, and detail drawings. The consideration of materials, size, and cost. Is the "finished" piece the final piece or does it need to be made or cast in a durable material?

As my messy lines get "molded" into a composition, I work with modeling materials. These materials allow me to add and subtract as I work much like adding with graphite and subtracting with an eraser. In school, I worked with moist modeling clay and wax. Finished pieces needed to be cast. For this, I used plaster of Paris, a fragile material that was readily available and inexpensive, as a student. I learned the age-old art of mold making so I could control the entire casting process. I cast a few pieces in polyester resins (these were toxic). Some sculptures were made by direct plaster, skipping the clay, and still additive and subtractive. 

I am working now working with epoxy clays. Ave's Apoxie Sculpt is like moist modeling clay when mixed together in equal parts. What amazing material!! No need to make molds from clay sculptures, and cast. Epoxy is permanent and is the final material. It works like modeling clay, has a few hours of working time, and more material can be added over the set material, and it is an additive and subtractive material.

Copyright 1994-2023 Joel T. Keener
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