There are numerous approaches or “compositional techniques” to achieve a sense of unity within an artwork, depending on the goals of the artist. For example, a work of art is said to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye if the elements within the work are arranged in a balanced compositional way.
Conventional composition can be achieved by utilizing a number of techniques:
The Rule of Thirds:
The rule of thirds states that an image is more pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds- both vertically and horizontally. It is an amazing mathematical rule that can be applied to something as varied and subjective as a photograph. But it works surprisingly well. It creates a sense of balance without making the image appear static and a sense of complexity without making the image look too busy.
The Rule of Odds:
The rule of odds states that by framing the object of interest with an even number of surrounding objects, it becomes more comforting to the eye thus creates a feeling of ease and pleasure. It suggests an odd number of subjects in an image are more interesting than an even number. An even number of subjects produces symmetries in the image, which can appear less natural for a naturalistic, informal composition.
Rule of Space:
The rule of space applies to artwork (photography, advertising, illustration) in which the artist wants to apply the illusion of movement, in the mind of viewer.
This can be achieved by leaving space in the direction – the eyes of a portrayed person are looking, or when picturing a runner, adding white space in front of him rather than behind him to indicate movement.
Images with clutter can distract from the main elements within the picture and make it difficult to identify the subject. By decreasing the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary objects. Clutter can also be reduced through the use of light, as the brighter areas of the image tend to draw the eye, as do lines, squares and color.
Limiting focus is the technique in which everything in the surroundings around the main subject matter is kept out of focus or blur.
Geometry and symmetry:
In some compositions, triangles are an aesthetically pleasing implied shape within an image. In a canonically attractive face, the mouth and eyes fall within the corners of the area of an equilateral triangle. Paul Cézanne successfully used triangles in his compositions of still lives.
- There should be a center of interest or focus in the work, to prevent it becoming a pattern in itself.
- The direction followed by the viewer’s eye should lead the viewer’s gaze around all elements in the work before leading out of the picture.
- The subject should not be facing out of the image.
- A moving subject should have space in front.
- Exact bisections of the picture space should be avoided;
- Small, high contrast, elements have as much impact as larger, duller elements;
- The prominent subject should be off-center, unless a symmetrical or formal composition is desired, and can be balanced by smaller satellite elements
- The horizon line should not divide the art work in two equal parts but be positioned to emphasize either the sky or ground; showing more sky if painting is of clouds, sun rise/set, and more ground if a landscape.