Friday, May 10, 2013

Composition Part 10 - Star Burst

Glancing at my desk I saw this image.  Weird, I thought.

 Walking around the desk, the image rotated, but I still did not recognize anything.

Finally, with the newspaper oriented correctly I saw the familiar painting by Winslow Homer.  The Life Line is not a favorite of mine, but I have seen the painting dozens of times over the years.  Why couldn’t I recognize it?  Part of the problem was the rotation, but more important is the fact that Homer is working hard to disorient the viewer.  There is no horizon, no vanishing point, and the figures have been crumpled into a dark mass with only one face visible.  

Here, however, is a painting that I would easily recognize upside down, but on the other hand, it creates a strange abstract in black and white.

The Ecstasy of St. Paul by Nicholas Poussin does not camouflage the figures as Homer does, but the horizon and architectural elements are severely downplayed, while the heavenly “explosion” of arms, legs and angel wings is bewildering. 
The “floating” effect of both paintings and the absence of horizon and perspective make them both hard to place in the real world.  They are, in a way, the exact opposite of the usual architectural rendering, which is solidly moored to the ground, and is sensibly cognizant of perspective and gravity.  I suppose that is another way of saying that architectural renderings tend to be boring.

Other examples of the “Star Burst” composition include paintings that depict violent action. Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Peter is full of violence and action, in spite of the crisp and brilliant modeling.

The Fall of Ixion by Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem is another explosive painting of violence and destruction.

Turner’s Flare in High Seas from 1840 takes a distant drama (a ship in distress), and makes it exciting by obscuring the normal reality in a composition of angles and swirls.

The subject of a Star Burst composition doesn’t have to be “sturm und drang”, but can simply be action and drama. Thalia, Muse of Comedy by Jean-Marc Nattier gives the viewer the feeling of an opening night curtain riser, complete with mystery, allure, and sensuality.

Manmade structures would seem to be unsuitable for the Star Burst composition, but, as Hoisting the Upper TGallant 1900 by J.M. Groves shows, viewpoint and perspective can go far in producing interesting patterns.

As noted above, perspective gives a natural Star Burst effect. Depending on the design and the viewpoint, a fairly straightforward architectural rendering can produce it. Briarcliff Development Grand Stair by Dick Sneary shows the subtle effect in an otherwise static view.

Aerial Perspectives will often produce a dynamic image that would be impossible at ground level. Gangwando Ski Resort by Art Zendarski exemplifies this possibility.

Interiors can be quite boring if viewed from a normal viewpoint. Looking up at in interesting ceiling, or down from a multistoried atrium can produce amazing results. Sony Center by Angelo De Castro takes such a viewpoint, but uses the addition complication of seeing the space in mirror panels which distort the reality. It is quite a tour-de-force, even if the information is obscured.

Use a Star Burst composition to express excitement and drama. Use it to focus on some feature in the rendering. Or, use it to break up a too static image. But don’t lose the reality which is the whole point of architectural illustration.

A caveat for all posts on composition.
You don’t want to produce total chaos.
You don’t want to create banal order.
You do want to entice, hint, and suggest.
You want to create mystery, even if the subject appears to be obvious.

 - Composition Part 17 - Value Studies

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