Finding A Direction by Christopher Schink
By charting and analyzing the direction of the edges of the shapes in your painting, you are able to determine whether you have created a dominant movement that helps convey your expressive intent. You can clearly see where and how contrasting movements attract the eye. You can alter, subdue, or eliminate shapes whose direction detracts from the effectiveness of your design.
VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL MOVEMENTS
Repeated horizontal movements in a composition create a sense of calm. They suggest space and landscape. Repeated vertical movements seem formal, suggesting man and nature. Paintings composed primarily of vertical and horizontal movements have a quiet, stable quality. You should emphasize by repetition either the horizontal or vertical movements in your composition. If you employ verticals and horizontal movements in equal numbers, your design will be confusing and less effective.
Watercolor, 20" x 30"
Repeated diagonal movements create a sense of motion and action. For example, you create a very different effect when you describe tree trunks with diagonal movements rather than with verticals. Diagonals are difficult to compose if their angles are all different. By repeating several angles throughout your design, you develop a rhythmic, unified composition.
Watercolor, 22" x 30"
Curvilinear movements have a sensual or emotional quality. They seem organic and naturalistic. Compositions built on repeated curvilinear movements appear weaker and less structured than those built in verticals, horizontals and diagonals. You'll find gentle, curving movements easier to compose than circular movements.
Acrylic on paper, 16" x 20"
1. Lay a piece of tracing paper over one of your value sketches, drawings or photographs. With a soft pencil accurately trace the direction of the edges of the shapes you can see in your reference image.
2. Remove the tracing paper and analyze the movement of line you've drawn. Is there a dominant direction? Is it horizontal, vertical, diagonal or curvilinear? Or do you have a little of everything? Is there a contrasting movement (for example, a few verticals in a field of horizontals)? Do these contrasting movements occur in areas of importance?
3. Ignoring your reference material (hide it somewhere where you can't peek at it), try a new drawing and redesign the direction of the shapes in your composition.
4. For your new drawing decide on a dominant direction (horizontal, diagonal, etc.) and repeat it as often as possible. Don't think about the thing you're drawing or try to accurately render it; just show the direction of its edges. Don't worry about accuracy; look for rhythm. In this drawing place contrasting movements in areas you feel are important.
5. Try this again emphasizing a different dominant movement. Compare this design with the previous one. Does it feel different? Does it more effectively convey your expressive intent?
6. Try laying tracing paper over a reproduction of a painting you admire and tracing the direction of the shapes. You may be surprised at how well its shapes are designed and composed. That's not an accident; it's the work of an artist.
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