Friday, November 29, 2013

Composition part 13 - Quick Tips

Although hard-and-fast rules are not the sure path to good composition, there are basic rules that should be remembered. The following are rules that will keep an illustration from becoming static and flat. Practice them until they become second nature­---then proceed to break them.

One-point perspectives should never be allowed to become too symmetrical. Kick the vanishing point to one side so that you see more of one side wall and the horizontal lines are not parallel.

Do the same thing with two-point perspectives, making them somewhat asymmetrical.

Avoid one-point perspectives when making exterior renderings. Rotate a rectilinear building so that it is not being seen on a 45-degree angle.

Adjust the position of a building so that it neither is too centered in general nor has a corner (or distinctive feature) that is too centered.

Don’t crowd the subject building in a too-small frame or let it float untethered in a large frame.

Keep an eye out for perspective distortion at the edges of a proposed view. Remember that distortion is easy to hide in a rural view but will take considerable adjusting to eliminate in an urban project.

And if I haven’t been clear enough about this…
  Rules are suggestions from past experience.
  Rules are only the start of the process of learning.
  Rules can be broken.
  If it looks right, it is right.

And just to inspire a little rule breaking, here is Frank Lloyd Wright and Marion Mahony breaking the rules, brilliantly. Above, the Lexington Terrace Apartments filling the picture frame…

…and the T.P. Hardy House, tucking the house into the top of a long page. The dark horizontal is the crease in the scanned page, but is about where the lake shore is drawn.

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspiration - Bierstadt & Atmosphere

Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902) was an artist associated with the Hudson Valley School. He was a talented student of landscape painting who studied light and nature with a clear albeit romantic eye. He can be melodramatic (I myself have been accused of same), but there is much to admire about and learn from him.

Bierstadt, like Constable, Leonardo da Vinci and others, studied the sky and clouds. His purest sky paintings involve views over a calm sea, as in his Sea and Sky, above.

… or this Beach Scene.

Add a ship to such an atmospheric study, and you have scale and a story that will sell… yes, he had to make a living… duh. I find this painting, Wreck of the Ancon, moving on many levels.

Landscape, combines a sky study with mysterious mountains and a foreground frame to create the quintessential Bierstadt painting.

Bierstadt helpfully reminds me that the sky is simply a rendering of light, which can take almost any color. Sunrise over Forest and Grove spreads the warm light over the landscape creating a unified effect that is surprisingly enjoyable.

Of course, when I think of Bierstadt I think of drama, and Deer at Sunset serves it up in great glowing gobs. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for an architectural illustration (who would even notice the building?), but it is an exciting performance.

Bierstadt is also known for mountains, the natural backdrop for drama and the abode of the gods. Mountain Lake is about as serene as he gets, and is a nice example of the effect of distance on color: the dark colors losing saturation and contrast, while the light colors (the snow) retain a cool strength.

Canadian Rockies Asulkan Glacier is a dynamic composition resembling a stage set. The layers of foreground, middle ground and background establish order, allowing the various textures to work together.

Mountainous Landscape, for me, is a reminder that a spotlit foreground can be the focus of a grandiose scene. Note that the simple flag-like composition of horizontal stripes establishes foundation for the differently scaled landscapes.

One of the most difficult problems for an architectural renderer to solve is how to highlight an urban building that is surrounded by other buildings. The Snow Mountain solves a similar problem by using haze to merge the surrounding mountains, and by lighting the snow-covered peak.

As is obvious from the preceding examples, Bierstadt’s work always explores the play of light on the landscape. His favorite subject is the mountains, but he applies the same genius to woodlands, as in Forest Stream, above…

… or, unusually, to a building. The title of the painting above, Sunlight and Shadow, suggests that he is less interested in the architecture than in the play of light.