Successful Composition by Cropping

I recently attended an Art Residency program in the Pontiac in Quebec, a beautiful part of our great country on the shores of the mighty Ottawa River. I had a wonderful week with some very creative artists and extremely generous hosts.

Here are two incomplete paintings I made during various workshops that week. I used hardware store supplies: wall spackle, concrete and grout then manipulated these substances on my MDF boards to create textures and shapes. After they were dry I started painting them with fluid acrylics. For this exercise and blog, I am using these as Dream Pieces to talk about composition and design and to stimulate my imagination to create more paintings.

 Dream Piece II, 16 x 24 in, collage 2smDream Piece II, 16 x 24 in, collage sm

Neither of these pieces is a successful painting yet. There are too many small shapes to make either one successful. The piece on the left is better than the one on the right partly because it is 16 x 20 in and the current centres of interest are closer together in better sweet spots. I also don’t think there is enough value contrast to satisfy my eye. So I got out my 5 x 7 in.  mat to find how many “small but mighty paintings” I could make out of each piece.

An exercise for you and a suggestion for your learning: before checking my examples below, try this out yourself by blowing up each of my paintings on your computer screen and then using your own small mat to crop what you think are successful bits as stand alone paintings. Or you could use your computer photo imaging software to actually crop my pieces. How many can you find?

Have you followed my suggestion above or are you going to peek at my selections first?

IMGP1301 IMGP1302 IMGP1303 IMGP1304 IMGP1305 IMGP1306 IMGP1307 IMGP1308 IMGP1309 IMGP1310 IMGP1311 IMGP1312 IMGP1313 IMGP1314 IMGP1315 IMGP1316 IMGP1317 IMGP1318 IMGP1319 IMGP1320 IMGP1321 IMGP1322 IMGP1323 IMGP1324 IMGP1325

So I have found a total of 25 from the two paintings, some are more successful than others. One reason this process works so well to make interesting compositions, is that it takes very small detailed shapes from the large painting focuses in on them, and makes them grow in size in the smaller format.

So the lesson for me is kiss: keep it simple. Have a few much larger shapes in my paintings and a very few small shapes in the sweet spots. The books on composition suggest no more that 7-11 shapes makes a successful painting, sometimes as few as three. Make at least one Poppa shape (cover 40% of the piece with this shape), and some Momma and baby shapes. We don’t have try to incorporate everything.!

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of my small paintings? Did you peek at my examples first before you tried to crop? Was this exercise/blog interesting and/or useful?

The final paintings are below (I think?!)

Dream Piece I, 16 x 20 in, collage, new sm Dream Piece II, 16 x 24 in, collage new reversed vry sm

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7 Responses to Successful Composition by Cropping

  1. pat deman says:

    hi, I have a work of art of yours ,I think its panache….it of three monks under a red umbrella …is it panache and does it have value ?? It is pretty cool. Thnx.

    • Shirley Mancino says:

      Hi Pat, Glad you like my painting. Thank you for the great feedback. Is it not an image of three young women nuns?…….in Burma, all nuns have their heads shaved so they look like men. What did you mean when you asked “ is it panache and does it have value?”

  2. Adele CONSTANTINEAU says:

    Loved the overall play of texture and colors. Like the way you cropped to get various works out of one. Wish you were closer…

    • Shirley Mancino says:

      Hi Adele,
      Thanks for your feedback on my cropping technique. Have you seen the latest blog on “Completing a student’s painting”?
      where are you in the world?

  3. nora ritchie says:

    Very interesting…..probably would have been even more so if I had more time right now…..Did notice that you chose to ignore the the 2nd s in ‘kiss’……..guess you just didn’t want to say ‘keep it simple stupid’ 😊hugs
    Date: Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:38:44 +0000

  4. chrisdelon says:

    Fantastic Shirley! Seemes very internesting and efficient! Christiane

    Envoyé de mon iPad


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