Jeanette and I are on our way to the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts, a team-taught workshop with about 80 fantasy and science fiction art students.
IMC goes on for a whole week, but we’ll be there just two days. I’ll give the Color and Light talk tonight, and a brand new lecture on Composition tomorrow.
I’ll also be presenting the composition lecture in a seminar this October at LAAFA in Los Angeles.
Composition has traditionally been taught in abstract terms, using concepts such as eye pathways, golden section, or balancing masses. Most art schools and books teach it this way, and I believe it’s useful...up to a point.
I’m going to take quite a different approach, focusing on three things:
1. Visual perception (how do viewers really look at pictures?)
2. Storytelling (what does the picture hope to communicate?)
3. Tonal design (how can the lights and darks be arranged for maximum effect?)
My thinking draws on the science of visual perception, and on the ideas of American illustrator Howard Pyle.
Pyle revolutionized the teaching of composition by making the story paramount. Pyle’s student Jessie Willcox Smith recalled how one’s awareness of the story influenced the choices in composition:
"At the [Pennsylvania] Academy [of the Fine Arts] we had to think about compositions as an abstract thing, whether we needed a spot here or a break over there to balance, and there was nothing to get hold of. With Mr. Pyle it was absolutely changed. There was your story, and you knew your characters, and you imagined what they were doing, and in consequence you were bound to get the right composition because you lived these things. . . . It was simply that he was always mentally projected into his subject.”
If you live in Los Angeles, I encourage you to sign up early for my October lecture/demo workshop at LAAFA.
This will be the perfect material for you if you’ve developed good figure drawing and painting skills but you want to know how to develop a multifigure scene.
The Jessie Wilcox Smith quote will appear in the essay I recently wrote for the upcoming exhibition catalog called “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered.”
Illustration Master Class
LAAFA workshop on Compositionhttp://reg125.imperisoft.com/LAAFA/ProgramDetail/3132393637/Registration.aspx