Thursday, January 6, 2011

Composition Class with Vandruff, Day 1

What a treat.  Four hours has never passed this quickly since I last played Starcraft II :P  Vandruff is one heck of a teacher who is extremely well-prepared and knowledgable.  Well, here are some notes before I slip off to bed.


The Role of Composition

Three Areas of Mastery in art
  1. Technique: How you apply the medium.  It's related but different from "style".  Technique is valuable because it's the first thing people see, much like instrument is the first thing people hear in a piece of music.
  2. Draftsmanship: This is "grammar of art" and "correct drawing."  There are three aspects to it: Anatomy - What things are made of, Perspective - how things look in space, and Rendering - putting skin on things.  Correctness in itself is emotionless, however.  What makes things exciting?
  3. Composition: It's the same thing as "Design", and is similar to "arrangement" and "organizing".  Composition is organizing from feeling, and ultimately organize for feeling.  (Quote from Vandruff: "The worst teachings in classes happen in composition classes."  His main reason is composition is subjective, and teachers should help rather than direct the student in finding their own compositions.)  Composition is about making good choices.  Impulses and habits also kicks in, but the choices are what make the difference in making art.
Errors Commonly Made by Writers and Artists Alike
  1. Sentimentality - beat people over the head with emotions and commentaries
  2. Fidelity - author being overly cold and unemotional, insensitive to human feelings
  3. Mannerism - Pretentiousness.  Author is more focused on showing off, putting their skills on the center stage rather than the purpose of their work.

Studying Composition

"Rehearsing success" - choose a favorite master, pretend to be them, and imitate their choices.  The risk of doing this is becoming a rip-off.  To remedy this, one should take works of people who have very different styles, find what's in common, and take the common element that make things work for his own use.

Developing sensitivity: look at what you love.  Look at what other people tell you to love to.  They may be wrong but they may be right too.

It is best to make big choices small.

A good approach is explore first before asking questions with left brain.  Analogy: You cannot steer a car that is not moving.  Illustrations must be made by inspiration.  "Child mode" and "Play mode" should come before "Adult mode" and "Work mode."

It is important to compose with negative shapes as well as positive ones.

Abstraction and Feeling

The first principle of composing: A picture is essentially a flat surface colored with colors and symbols in a certain order.

Quote from Andrew Wyeth: "I feel a picture has to be abstractly exciting to be a good picture."  A picture should be exciting without content, just with the arrangement.

Every picture, including realistic ones, is an abstract arrangement.

Abstractions should evoke feelings.

Analogy: you should be able to tell the mood of a successful movie poster through a shower glass.

Analogy: Phillis the Cat was never as popular as Mickey Mouse because Mickey Mouse has less pointy, more "huggable" silhouette.

Metaphors & Touchstones

Metaphor is the life of art, if not art itself.

One thing is like another.

Assigned symbolism frequently become pretentiousness.  One should serve viewers rather than testing them in decipher symbols.  An image should work on the primitive level.

Visual metaphors make abstractions concrete.

When studying from life, instead of just copying what you see, get an opinion about it.

Metaphor can happen in parts of the picture, or the entire picture.

Brainstorming using clustering technique: What is the ___ like?"  Start from the center and branch out with metaphors and analogies.

Injected metaphor: if an artist does one thing a lot or like it very much, it may seep into their work unconsciously.  This could be cool or problematic, especially since we want to choose what emotions to convey on a per-piece basis.

Metaphore exercise: Name everything as something else, and name everybody you know as an animal.  They may be different animals depending on their mood.

Use touchstones - inspire yourself with another artist's work.  Work best when the artist's subject-matter is vastly different from yours.

Consonance & Motiffs

Consonance is opposite to contrast.  It's about how things are similar, like echos.  It's the visual rhyme of a painting.

If the repeating element becomes too much, switch to a different one and interweave with the previous one.  (Counter-rhyme.)

Four questions to ask when making a composition

  1. What feelings am I trying to evoke?  This has nothing to do with context.
  2. What other things is this thing like? (conveys emotion, messages)
  3. What visual rhyme can I echo throughout the picture to unify it?
  4. What visual metaphor can the rhyme fit?
(Analogy: a common rhyme for poems is "-ore" rather than "-ippy", because "-ore" sounds heavy, solemn, like a person's death sigh.  Same thing with visual rhymes: what are their emotional connotations?)

No comments: