The Elements and Principles of Composition for Drawing and Painting
Nature communicates with men and enables them to communicate among themselves through languages known to the senses and sensibilities. “The Elements and Principles of Composition for Drawing and Painting” is an analysis of Nature’s visual language and how the masters have employed it in painting. The text begins by examining the components of Nature’s visual language and how they communicate content and form. Content is visual, intellectual and emotional meaning; form is aesthetic meaning. Content is expressed abstractly and realistically through five visual elements; form is expressed aesthetically through seven types of structural relationships. The perception, interpretation and judgment of content and form are carried out by an observer’s sensibilities. That, which conforms to a sensibility’s preferences, is judged as pleasant and that, which does not, is judged as unpleasant. What greatly pleases a sensibility is regarded by it as beautiful. Thus, we find there are visual, intellectual, emotional and aesthetic types of beauty. Though sensibilities are somewhat genetically predisposed, they are largely the product of experience. Their development and intentional molding are examined in detail. Having come to an understanding of visual communication, the purpose of painting is next investigated; it is to visually communicate one’s perceptions, thoughts and emotions in a thematic and poetic manner. Its purpose is to please the observer’s aesthetic sensibility while affecting his visual, intellectual and emotional sensibilities in an intended manner. Painting serves the same purpose as music, dance and poetry, but employs a different language. After painting’s language and purpose are made clear, the principles and practices of composition are examined. Composition employs the visual elements and natural laws in a manner that poetically expresses a theme and mood. It controls how an observer enters and exits a painting and the order and importance of what he sees on his visual journey through it. The intent of composition is to cause the observer to see, think and feel what the painter wants him to see, think and feel. The content of a composition does not necessarily have to please an observer, but the form in which it is presented must be poetic. That is, above all else, a naturalistic painting should be aesthetically beautiful.