Trivium Art HistoryArt History Projects

A Study in CompositionYou'll want a ruler for this one

Imagine you are a modernist artist. You use blocks of color, grids, and formal composition to create your artwork, but you have the artist's eqivalent to writer's block. Unsure of what to paint next, you turn to history's wide array of compostion techniques to inspire for your next artwork. Will it be intimidatingly rigid, or will you find whimsical expressions within an ancient technique? For this project, you'll need a pencil or pen, a ruler or straight-edge, and a piece of standard printer paper. Before you begin, read the short essay on advanced composition techniques from history, then follow the steps below:

  1. First, define your 'canvas.' Starting with your sheet of paper, you may change the shape or proportions of your canvas, by cutting or folding your paper. If you want to maintain your sanity, stick to some form of rectangle.
  2. Once you've decided on the proportion of your canvas, choose one of the compostion methods from article linked above, and use that method to draw a composition grid into your paper. 
  3. Using only black rectangles, create a composition of shapes that engage with the composition grid you've laid out. Consider how each rectangle both engages with the grid, and contributes to the overall composition of the piece.

When your composition is complete, write about why you made the decisions you did, and what emotions you feel like the final composition evokes. Consider the formal properties of design, that vertical forms are ambitious, that horizontal forms are stable, and diagonal forms can symbolize positive or negative change.

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