Sunday, April 21, 2013

Composition Part 9 - "L" Frame

When you look at something you are often looking through  or around something else; a window, a door, under a tree, or through your glasses (my constant view frame). People also like to frame pictures and objects; it makes the picture more focused, and the object more important in some way. Paintings and photographs often use a frame within the image itself: for instance the view of King Charles Street, Whitehall, London (top, above) or the Tower Bridge (both from the Picture Book of London published by Country Life in 1951).

Painters have always played with framing devices, using some foreground object to give scale and frame the view. The painting above by Gustav Bauernfeind called, At the Entrance to the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, is a straight forward “through the arch” approach, mirroring the photograph at the top of the page. 

Of course conveniently located arches are not always available, so the usual fallback tactic is the side of a building, or looking out from under a part of a building, such as Egyptian Landscape with a Distant View of the Pyramids by David Roberts. 

Paintings of a town or city provide windows, doors, arches and other manmade foreground opportunities. In the country you need to use an entirely different set of objects. Albert Bierstadt used mountains, trees and clouds to frame his Landscape, above.

In the Deer at Sunset, Bierstadt used what I call the “L” frame, a contrasting form following the bottom and side of the image. Such a “frame” helps focus the image using a fairly commonly occurring form. In this case it is the rocky base of a cliff and the shadow cast by the cliff.

In  The Conquest of the Amazon by Antonio Parreiras, the shadowed tree trunk and people in the foreground form the frame to the ceremony taking place in the sunlit clearing.

Frederic Edwin Church was always able to capture the drama of any landscape. His painting called The River of Light uses not only natural lighting effects, but the foreground frame to heighten the effect.

Terra natal by Antonio Parreiras includes enough detail in the darker “frame” area, to make it the focus of the viewer’s interest.

Winslow Homer didn’t use framing very often (tending to center the focus), but when he did, as with At the Window, he broke the rules in the most interesting way. In this case he contrasts the frame with the view out the window, giving the frame the primary emphasis.

La Siesta, Memory of Spain is a typical composition by Gustave Dore, using strong foreground shadow, and high contrast and detail to draw the eye.

Architectural renderings can be easily improved by using an “L” frame. Green Study by Aleksander (Olek) Novak-Zemplinski takes an already interesting abstract sculpture, and adds immediacy by framing it with interior space.

ASB Bridge Kansas City by Dick Sneary puts the bridge in context, while giving depth to the rendering.

W-Project Theoretical by Tomoaki Hamano creates a frame and a balance using trees and foreground objects. The inclusion of the “professorial statue” gives a nice narrative to the otherwise dry subject.

Frames can be made from almost any object. People are always around just begging to be placed in a rendering, and most locations have trees and adjacent buildings. Don’t worry too much about the accuracy of the placement of foreground objects; there is a surprising degree of forgiveness when you get a composition right.

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