Intuition vs the Necessity of Composition 

This week I wanted to publish a checklist for composition but before I delve into this, I’d like to talk about the necessity of planning and composition, before diving into a painting.

Golden Spiral

Often, I don’t follow this myself as I am too eager to get starting when an idea hits. But undoubtedly, if I don’t plan in advance, I run into problems that become impossible to solve or that I manage to work out somewhat successfully but leave me unsatisfied.

Unlike what many of us might think, professional artists don’t have a special gift that allow easy and flowing creation. Problems arise. Mastering the tools, pigments, materials, surfaces as well as the elements and rules of composition are the necessary components to successful artworks.

Yes, some of us find some things easier than others, whether the mastering of colors or line but most of us struggle with one element or another.

Personally, I have a difficult time sticking with known formulas and spend a lot of time experimenting with colors and styles. Sticking with only one subject matter would also make my life easier but exploring is part of the artists’ life. The joy of discovery is what keeps us going.

I love to start a new project but if I let my energy take over completely without structure and planning, the end product will be disappointing. On the other hand, if something is too structured, too perfect, it feels labored and lifeless.

My way of working is to plan but not completely, work for a while, stop, stand back and assess according to my list of criteria. From there, I note what needs to be changed and how to push the painting in the right direction.

Unfortunately, I have many interrupted projects, waiting for a resolution. These projects were started eagerly and without enough planning. Now I have to work backwards, undo to be able to redo properly. My brain is working on these while I work on other things, working out the problems. Painting intuitively is not all it’s cracked up to be and can turn out very disappointing.

In the end, whether working in figurative or abstract art, there needs to be a composition that works as well as an emotion that is transmitted to the viewer. Neither one can be ignored. Painting as well as writing is all about communication. In order to communicate effectively, it is important to use the right tools. Composition is, in my opinion, the most important tool of all but, at the same time, we must not become a slave to it. Experimenting, reflecting and playing are also important and will ensure we enjoy our art.


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