Saturday, May 14, 2011
Road to Nowhere: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/04/stupid-design-ideas-2.html
One for Each Eye: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/encyclopedia-of-dumb-design-ideas-4.html
Foreground Dillema: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/foreground-dilemma.html
The Three Striper: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/encyclopedia-of-dumb-design-ideas-three.html
The Potato 1: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/encyclopedia-of-dumb-design-ideas_11.html
The Potato 2: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/encyclopedia-of-dumb-design-ideas-rock.html
Beaks 1: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/encyclopedia-of-dumb-design-ideas-beak.html
Beaks 2: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/debeakification.html
Beaks 3: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/kensett-beak.html
Beaks 4: http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-beaks-and-some-beaks-avoided.html
Expect updates, as Stapleton Kearns adds to his blog.
Monday, May 9, 2011
The following two pieces remind us that death comes for us as well. It is something to fear, not simply ignore. The first is a cover piece by Charlie Adlard for a comic called The Walking Dead, one of the grimmest zombie stories you can find. It also won the Eisner Award just last year, for best continuing series.
The cover consists of a group of zombies at the top stumbling towards you, with you apparently lying on the ground, having tripped over debris. In the middle of the zombies there's a mother and child, suprisingly unhurt, and seemingly ignored by the hungry zombies - a mystery I'll get to in a moment. Below the zombies is just darkness, taking up most of the image.
So what does the dark represent? For me, this cover states a clear message. First you're going to be torn apart by these dead things, and then you'll go wherever the darkness leads - the depth of the black referencing the six feet of burial, although you'd be lucky to be buried in this circumstance. Charlie Adlard could've easily just drawn their legs and feet, in a field or street filled with debris, filling in a lovely background. He could've placed the zombies in the middle, or down below, adding a lovely bit of sky above - even stars twinkling in twilight. But it wouldn't have told the same story.
Despite the drunken stupor of these zombies, there's a definite longing in their eyes, a need to bring you down to their level - that mixed with a stupid hunger we've come to expect from zombies. In this image, death isn't just a fact of life or a force of nature, it's a hungry beast, and utterly ruthless. Charlie wants you to fear death, to fill you with dread and suspense, hinting at the horrors to come within the comic. And with a simple bit of perspective, placing the zombies above you, you become a participant in the story, not just a voyeur.
Here's a portrait of Chris Cooper by Daniel Clarke that says all the same things, without the zombies:
It's a bit more subtle, but it's amazing how just one man's expression can say so much. This portrait uses the same black compositional device, but the focus is a little different. While the first portrays death as an unthinking animal, this one embodies it in the cold intellect of a man, who ought to know better. Chris Cooper, as a villain in one of his films, displays a face that states both indifference and relentless drive. We fear him, but there's a second, underlying fear - that we are the monster as well. Zombies are no longer human, so they're not subject to notions of ethics or justice - they're free to kill and maim with a clear conscious. People don't get that luxury, and of the two dangers represented in these works, it's man we most have to fear.
I'm going to focus my next few posts on portraits, to explore the different functions they fill. It amazes me how some portraits are just heads on walls, while others can tell a complete story. I'll try to find more examples.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Here's a look at this using the Golden Mean to find four points, which I then used to make a grid, dividing up the picture plane. The idea with this is that the points of intersection should be ideal focal points, and the shapes should follow the lines. I don't see any of that here.
Friday, March 18, 2011
For me, it's the figure in the middle who stands out, and was the first thing I saw in this image. No matter where I look, I'm drawn back to him. The reason I chose this piece is to determine why. I mean, he's in the middle, so that's one reason. The rest of the scene is so chaotic, he's one of the few figures you can rest your eyes on. There's also the use of high contrast to focus your attention on him - in this case alternating from light to dark on each side of his head:
Friday, March 11, 2011
Here's another painting by Donato Giancola:
FARAMIR AT OSGILIATH
55" x 37" Oil on paper on panel, copyright 2003 Donato Giancola, posted with artist's permission
Friday, March 4, 2011
Here's a perfect example of what an artist can accomplish by understanding and carefully planning the principles of composition:
28"x 15"Oil on Paper on Masonite, copyright 2004, Donato Giancola, posted with artist's permission.
What do you see first, in this image? For me, it's his face, particularly his eyes and nose, leading up to the reflection in his visor. Then the Earth pokes out on the left, and I feel a little play looking back and forth at these two circular objects. These three elements, face, reflection, and planet, tell a great story, but I didn't choose this to talk much about focal points. Here are the compositional elements that stand out to me, that are really exciting:
- There's the strong contrast between light and dark, used countless times by artists as a representation of life and death - of the urge not just to live, but find meaning in it. Darkness represents death and mystery - the mystery of after-death. I say mystery because anything could be hidden in darkness, just as there are countless mystical theories about the afterlife. This is true whether it's the shadow of a tree, a darkened interior, or the depths of space. In this work, we see the black literally as a danger, as the vacuum of space. Anyone who's read a sci-fi book knows that the slightest problem with this man's suit could result in death. Just ask yourself why there aren't any stars twinkling behind him. They'd be pretty, and they might liven up the image, but then the blackness would lose its power.
- Look how close we are to this man's face. We're right there with him. Who are we, in the image? Are we a fellow astronaut? Then why isn't he looking at us? Maybe we're a camera that he's got with him, some instrument he doesn't really think about, while he does his work. In the time we take to read the image, we're no longer sitting at a desk, staring at our computers. We're out in space, because the artist consciously made us part of the story. Before you compose anything, you have to decide who the spectator is, where they'd be located, what they would be sitting on - or would they be standing, laying down, or flying above? When done correctly, the viewers feel like they've become someone else.
- There's a great sense of perspective and distance in this painting. How? There's no linear perspective, apart from the foreshortened face of the astronaut. There's no overlapping. There's no atmospheric perspective, because there's no atmosphere. The distance comes from the relationship between two circles, one large and one small. The large circle is the helmet of a man. The small circle is the planet Earth, something we know to be much larger than a man. Therefore it must be much farther away. Imagine for a second that the planet weren't there - how would it change the image? We'd have no sense of the vastness of the darkness behind him. We'd also have no idea where he is. The planet gives us clues as to the story, a rough timeline, and how the man feels. The Earth is a little ball behind him, just as it must be a little thought in the back of his mind - getting back to safety.
- There are no stars behind the man, only in front of him, as reflected on his vizor. And he's drawn to them like a moth to a flame. The image says a lot about people, our desire to explore, to find answers, to do something meaningful, to take risks. This one image expresses almost everything you could say about the subject of space travel, why we do it, what we hope to accomplish, and what makes it magical.
- Note how few compositional tricks he used from the previous post. I don't see any 'L's, crosses, diamonds, or triangles, apart from the triangle shape of the man's nose. There're just two circles, and they don't function the way they were described previously. They don't guide our eyes around anything. Instead, the small circle serves as a secondary focus, while the helmet serves as a frame for the face. So, there are many ways to compose an image, apart from the list I last posted.
That's what I see. I'd like to hear some other thoughts, if there's something I'm missing.
Click on the image and read through it. Note how the illustrations incorporate more than just one compositional device. Here are some questions I'd like to raise, and we'll revisit them in later blog posts.
- Are there really compositional hot spots, based on geometric division of the picture plane, that make for good focal points? Does it make a composition better to place your focal points in these places?
- What makes a focal point?
- Can you really lead or trap the viewer's eye through your composition?
Dear Mr. Huffman: I'm having trouble replying to your comment through blogspot. I live abroad in Slovakia, and for some reason, ever since Blogspot updated (which it shouldn't have) I can't get blogs to keep the language in English. Every time I open one, even my own, I'm a guest user, with the langauge switched to Slovak. I can open my dashboard normally, write and edit new blogs, but I can't post comments. So here's what I wanted to tell you:
"I understand the need to simplify this topic for beginning art students, and in k-12 school, your time is so limited, with so many students at a time, that it's hard to go into this topic in-depth.
For me, composition is interesting in so far as the questions it raises:
1. When you look at your favorite artworks/images, why are they good? Is it the composition that does it? Or something else? An expression? A pose? The colors? etc, and yes I know those are all part of the composition, bla bla bla.
2. Of all the approaches to composition, which are the most applicable for an artist? Which lead to the best results? And how would thinking this way change your work?