I thought I'd look at non-traditional composition - where the rule of thirds isn't the key but the painting relies on different compositional methods. in response to an excellent series of posts on the various ways of looking at composition by Katherine (link at end). These alternative considerations or breaking of rules - but making it work - appeal to me more than too heavy a reliance on the rule of thirds.
The painting above, by Paul Klee is a 'field' painting' - the composition is overall, the eye travels around enjoying the glowing colour that he creates by juxtaposing complementary colours, subtle greyed greens enhancing the oranges/reds/pinks. Most of the image is composed of the various greens, greeny browns and khakis, with accents of the warm colours. When working this way it's important that the balance is unequal and that the accent colours are placed carefully to keep the eye moving in the way the artist wants. A couple of the brighter colours could be said to be on the 'sweet spots' but there are sweeps of warmth or bright colours, guiding your eye through the work and these are more important in this case.
Another issue is quiet vs busy areas - a painting needs a mixture of areas of intense activity (colour/detail/tone/marks) and quiet areas to offset these, enhancing their importance and giving them a 'setting'. There are quiet areas even in the Klee, where similar colours harmonise and allow those warm colours to glow in trails and spots of warmth.
Jackson Pollock and Therese Oulton are other 'field' painters.
This Degas compostion does have head, jug, hairbrush, almost her hand, at 'sweet points' - but he's daringly made that shelf take up a third of the picture, the model faces outwards close to the edge - but he makes it work. The 'weight' of the objects and the shelf keep you in the painting and balance the figure. Following traditional advice she would have been further to the right, with room to 'look into' - but when you know the rules and can apply them you can progress to breaking them as long as you break them well - like this :>)
Objects, the direction of the objects or marks and the colour and tone used can all add weight that balances a seemingly unbalanced or 'wrong' composition.
Again look at the quiet areas - see how important they are.
Many of the paintings by Degas have a very unusual composition, like the ones above. There is a strong upward diagonal working her and the downward movement of the dancer on the left is the gesture that balances this and keeps it working - it creates a dynamic movement that balances and counteracts the upward diagonal of the right hand figures
- rather like balancing a seesaw where you need to move the weight (child) if the two children aren't equally sized - in painting this can be done with position, colour, tone to increase or decrease emphasis and tip the balance.
Gauguin uses a similar device to the Degas bather - there is a strong diagonal division between the women leaving church and the vision of an angel that they are seeing. The tree cuts the painting in two dramatically. The white headresses make a repeating pattern across. Again elements are placed on 'sweet spots' but it's that diagonal tree and separation of the elements that creates the drama.
The rule of thirds or Golden Mean tends to create a calm composition - for drama it's necessary to direct the eye around the painting in other ways, such as this.
Roger Hilton had had an argument with his wife who was jumping up and down in temper and waving her arms - he did this painting in response. The bright colours, dramatic flowing bold lines and positioning of the figure almost bursting out of the picture, arms windmilling, really capture this - you can almost hear her shouting :>)
Again look at the lively lines, echoed to give a sense of bouncing movement and then the quiet of the blocks of colour that enhance the liveliness of the marks and add to the energy of the figure in the use of colour.
The hare races down the track ahead of the speeding train in this Turner painting (you won't see it here but it is there honestly! it just isn't good enough resolution). The horizon is in the centre - oh dear you 'shouldn't do that!!!!' (normally very true) - but - Turner has made the land and sky similar colours, dissolving in light and so it works.
Generally speaking horizons do work better 1/3 of the way up or down the painting but when you know how, you can make it work even though you break the 'rules'. :>)
Windblown, Vivien Blackburn
This one of mine is about movement, marks that swoosh your eye up through the abstracted petals. Again there are quiet areas and areas with lots of detail - marks/colour/tone.
Barbara Rae's work is based on landscape but very much abstracted to colour and mark, with colours heightened dramatically. The swooshing lines move your eye through the work and your eye roams around - these are lovely in real life, the paint surface is full of marks, scumbled paint showing underlying colours, glazed colour, bold marks put down and left and colour used with drama.
Frequently in my own work it's the directional lines and marks and the way colour pulls your eye through that are the most important elements in composition. These are crucial from the very beginning - as you'll see in the work-in-progress seascapes that are ongoing - those go down at the beginning and I work around them, maybe adapting, moving, losing bits and enhancing bits but that movement is there in the final painting.
link to Katherine's excellent articles http://makingamark.blogspot.com/
http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/beach beaches paintings
How about you? how do you consider the compostion of a painting/drawing when planning?