William A. Schneider is a master of both composition and design. In this week’s Fresh Off the Easel, Schneider shares with us one of his most recent paintings,Drink From My Cup, and analyzes a few design and composition components.
Drink From My Cup Analyzed
In one of my new paintings,Drink From My Cup, I applied some of the tools described in my latest DVD,Composition Secrets For Figure Painting.
First of all, I thought about the overall mood and narrative. I had the model envision herself as Circe, the witch-goddess of Greek mythology who used a magic potion to turn Odysseus’ men into swine. Understanding that backstory led her to adopt the expressive, seductive pose. I decided to make this a very low-key painting to reinforce the mood.
One of the modules in my DVD is called “Designing with a Dominant Value.” As you can see, I treated the figure and part of the background as an S-shape of mid-values ribboning through the dark background. I also considered the dominant hue. I painted the darks as a very low-value, unsaturated red so that the lights, in predominantly blue-green tones (the complement of red) became the unmistakable center of interest. Placing equal amounts of the discords (yellow green and blue violet) near the figure reinforced the effect.
Another module in the DVD deals with “Placement Within the Picture Plane.” Here I used the “armature of the rectangle” to position the figure’s head (bound by the intersection of the two diagonals connecting the top corners to the centers of the opposite sides). Note that both her hands and the cup lie on the diagonal that runs from corner to corner. Also note that the entire figure is contained within the space bound by the lines that run from the top right corner to center of the two opposite sides. Although this way to organize the picture plane was routinely taught to artists 150 years ago, it was largely ignored in the 20th century. Fortunately, we’re now enjoying a new Renaissance in artistic training!
Ideally, these compositional tools are not obvious to the viewer. We want our paintings to look natural and spontaneous … even though a lot of thought and planning is necessary to create the maximum effect.
Learn more about William A. Schneider’s video workshops here.