- Lesson Details
In the Foundations of Composition video lesson series, world-famous artist and instructor Glenn Vilppu offers you a rich understanding of the complex subject of composition in fine art. Glen lectures, demonstrates, and analyzes the Old Masters in his usual straightforward and concise style as he digs down to the practical tools of composition and how they can be applied to your own work. In this second lesson, Glenn teaches you how to move the viewer’s eye through the picture and create a sense of force and liveliness to your compositions. Glenn also analyzes the movement in several masterworks, giving you a firsthand understand of its application.
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and instructor Glenn Vilppu offers you a rich understanding of the complex
subject of composition and fine art.
Glenn lectures, demonstrates, and analyzes the old masters in his usual
straightforward and concise style as he digs down to the practical
tools of composition and how they can be applied to your own work.
In this lesson Glenn teaches you how to move the viewer's eye through the
picture and create a sense of force and liveliness to your compositions.
Glenn also analyzes the movement in several masterworks,
giving you a firsthand understanding of his application.
Well, let's take and look at a couple more pictures here.
Now this is a Peter Paul Rubens.
Now I find Rubens for myself is is really, one of my favorites.
I do a lot of stuff, not only in looking at and analyzing the
paintings, but also in the drawings.
Now let's look at the dynamics of what he's got going here.
He's taking and at first, looking at the gesture, look at this line,
this long line going like this.
The opposite of how we get these, exact opposite.
These things are playing against each other.
This figure now is taking and coming out,
going in, and feel the pinching.
So we're taking and we're going over the surface, feeling the figure coming
out as we come down and go across here, this is now taking, coming out.
So we get really the twist that's taking place in here.
These are the classic heavy Rubenesque figures.
That's where the term comes from.
But surprisingly enough.
Ruben's actually drew very little from the female nudes.
Now you can see the head she's turning.
The arm is going in.
The head is turning back as the arm goes in.
As she's twisting with that, the other arm is coming back towards us.
Through and we're going down the space down here.
Now, if we take the next figure, the other female figure is just doing the opposite.
This is going in this way and it is twisting also.
So we're going through in space, this direction.
And we're looking at the under side where we would be buttocks.
We could see that this is going in that way.
So these two figures now are going exact opposites.
One is essentially actually going up, the head is turned going up.
The arm going behind this figure, which is taking and going down, notice how he's
really playing the difference between the male and the female in terms of color.
The women are very light.
The guys are very dark and bronzed.
He's taking your hand leaning in the arm of course he's holding her, but
he's taking it and going out this way.
So this very complex play a differences in here.
But if we started looking at the big - look at the big things.
Now we're starting down here, the drapery lower left-hand corner, come
in, going over and going in behind.
Look at these big movements, even to this horse and this guy's drapery here,
this is a big flowing movement going up and we get this sort of rhythmical
play where these things are building up.
This guy is now coming over spatially.
Now we start thinking of the space here.
You're a little bit of how the figure taking and coming
through right underneath.
So this figured out is going through the space created by this guy's arms here
and she's going in behind and through.
Rather complicated thing.
But we're having all this really sort of dramatic spatial elements
involved here, and yet has a very strong two dimensional element to it.
The whole point here now is we get this feeling of lifting up.
We're looking up, we feel this really, this height, the horse is rearing up.
It gives us a very low horizon line.
He's dropping all of this down low down here, which helps
to make us feel the height.
In other words, if we take it, if you look, if we take a canvas here, See what
he's doing as he's pushing stuff up here.
And we feel that height by pushing this down here.
But if we take that same point now, this is where you're using
the horizon line becomes a tool.
If I take that and move the horizon line up there, it
means we're looking down here.
You're looking up or in.
It gives a very different thing where you use the horizon within the picture.
So now when you start to take and we talk and it just these few illustrations
here, each one of them has brought another element of opposites, or so we're
talking about opposites at the same time.
You're talking about transition.
Talking about movement and we've definitely been talking
also about the frame all along.
So what you want to do now is to take and do the same thing you've been doing.
In the last lesson we did these small compositional sketches.
Well, here's what I suggest you do.
And this is literally the way you work.
You start out with an idea.
Say well, okay, I've got this thing happening here.
And I sort of liked there maybe you have an idea of a figure that you're
working with and then you take it and go to the next step farther with that.
Now you start to say, well, let's take these elements and start to take and
maybe diagram, like I have been, I've been diagramming these things these
boxes we could take and be dropping some of these things in tone to take and
show the box a little bit more clearly.
And to take and build these things up.
I can take and start to see the way the things are going in,
the way things are going out.
And you start to play with opposites and try to take that very simple movement
that you've been creating or a new one.
Again, these should not be large.
I wouldn't get any larger than four inches wide.
And that's way more than enough space to take into because you're not doing
finished compositional sketches.
You're doing very rough, but the thinking should be there.
Whether you're talking, working with boxes or abstract shapes, you're
taking and working with opposites, your focus is on transition with
opposite, using opposites and try to see
how many different kinds of opposites you can actually incorporate into your
compositions, but keep them simple.
Don't get complicated.
Focus on the composition, not your subject so much.
Taking a purely analytical approach to taking and
developing a painting or drawing.
In this series of examples, that the only thing I'm really talking about, this is
the point, is how the artist has taken and made the eye see certain things.
Okay, so now I'm going to ghost this down so you can see
what I'm talking about here.
Okay this is El Greco's view of Toledo.
Now, one of the things that he's doing here is that, and again,
these are a lot of stuff is going to be repeated many times.
But when we particularly we're talking about opposites, I can't really talk
about something without bringing things that we haven't talked about.
So now here we go.
Play of opposites.
He's working within a frame.
If you look at the picture, what we get is a very clear rising on one side
and a dropping on the other, not the very simple play of opposites, but how
does he make us really experience that?
Well, he starts out with this view of Toledo so we can see
that everything is building up.
We can see everything is building up and we look at this.
Now we get this the church.
Now notice this isn't accidental.
You got this going here.
We've got this going here and notice if you backed down, he
starts all the way down here.
He's creating this line that becomes something more.
Now, if you look at the clouds, what are we - what's going on?
He's pushing everything up.
So he's created this vertical hall or what he get on the other side.
If you've got it, literally a hole.
Everything is falling like it's going down the drain.
Dropping, dropping, dropping, but even here say we got the stuff,
he's got some building up and we get the play of opposites.
So when you're looking at El Greco, you don't ignore the clouds.
You look at everything going on here, but the main thing here is you can
see how these lines - let's just close this and so we look at the thing again.
Now you can experience it.
Look at the experience you can see even the way the dark in the back of the
white there is billing up, very obvious.
The thing that most students and particularly in the beginning, and I
expect that what will happen with you, they get too involved with all the pieces.
You've got to look and focus on the total and the process that you're dealing with.
Let us go to another painting now.
One of the main elements that I've been discussing is the idea of transition.
Now, starting on the left-hand side, notice that we're taking and what
we're dealing with is the frame.
You have the frame up here, and then we have this first
figure is a series of verticals.
As you look to the left
okay. The figure in fact is leaning backwards.
So it's really expanding.
And then if you can just visualize this now is what we
have as a series of transitions.
In the fact that the transition continues all the way down to the ground here.
So what you seeing then, and maybe I can make these lines a little, even bolder.
So you're seeing this, you're feeling this dropping then on the other side,
again, we're starting with the frame.
Verticals and then we get a series of figures going in.
So as he's doing this, where it gets very obvious, then you can
see the parallel lines here to the leg and the stuff going on.
It's carried on into the background here.
This is very similar.
Now that little diagram I did to start with.
So even look at the way, the light, the shadows in the background,
this guy's arm coming through.
So we're making - and this is, let's just do a little diagramming right here.
What we're talking about, and you can see that everything is pretty well parallel
to the picture plane on the bottom.
It's like a stage front.
It's just the stage out in front of you here and the figures
are taking and going back.
So we start with the idea transition and it keeps on going down.
All the way down and it gets repeated and then we've got the top up here and
then we got, so this is your primary and we have the secondary movement
then taking and going back and you can see now how he's taking in the drapery
in the background is building up.
And this is now he's noticed how this is working now, he's
getting this stuff going down.
He's literally working with the center of the frame.
You have these backgrounds, so it's going one way to the other.
So this is simple idea of transition.
There are other elements in here.
We talked about timing, okay.
Look at this head to now, to this head.
And as he keeps going notice even the hand coming out, out here.
We're creating a series of movements that are going through.
Everything is worked out.
There are no loose ends.
Now let's look at another Cavallino.
The point I wanna make here is that this is, these are concepts that are used.
These are tools.
These are tools.
Okay, so let's take, this is again, Cavallino 1600s.
Italian, actually Neapolitan, I believe.
It's now that goes to this down.
Now, this is actually almost the same composition.
Say what'd he get, he starts out with the first figure over
here, actually pushing out.
Get this going off, out there, going back in space, then notice that what
we get is a series of lines that are taking and going down to the concept
of what's going on, the baby, finding the baby in the reeds down here.
And the minute we get down see he carries that movement even
farther with this light down here.
So what we have is arms, figures gesturing people behind here looking down, he's
expands the whole thing, but there was a sense of timing between these things
as we keep moving down into here, then as we're going through here to emphasize,
to make the thing clear as we feel, look at the tone here, all this darker,
this is a vertical spaces and taking and going back in the opposite direction.
Notice that even in here it's nothing is extraneous.
So look at the arm.
If you look at the tree is even taking and going up from here to here and
we get all this stuff now building up and we get this stuff going through.
It's all, everything moves again, but it's a stage front.
You have - this is all happens for the visual space and then
you've got all this space behind.
But even as the figure leans back in this figure here, in other words, this central
figure here as she's leaning back, notice that the lines in the background now are
part of this and we even get the trees and stuff up here, taking it and going
along with it, we get this stuff building up, he takes and all of the elements
within the painting are organized.
And that was my first point.
You could have all these diverse elements, but everything is tied in.
See, even as the depth of the picture is going back in,
the two-dimensional lines are continuing.
So what we have is a, both a two-dimensional, three-dimensional
series of lines that are carrying your eye through.
And at the same time we're taking, going back in the opposite direction.
So this is really, but this is almost the same composition is the
other Cavallino, but same idea.
Okay, so now let's take a look at some other examples here.
Now let me take and Poussin was the head of the French Academy in Rome.
And now in this painting, again, the main thing I've been talking about
transition, transition, transition.
So let's take and ghost this down so we look at this.
So what we have them starting from the left now we can see the first figure here.
Look where are we getting - notice, notice that what he's done here, he
actually takes it and draws a line across the bottom, even the way the
shadows and everything takes and go through you're just going through it.
And again, it's like a stage, the stage front here that we're dealing with.
And so what we get here now, this figure is taking and leaning in.
Notice that what we have in the background here, got all these vertical stocked and
you got all this big verticals coming through and here he's repeating the frame.
And in fact, he's repeating the frame with the way the figures here
line up and this way you notice that the frame is being repeated.
This repetition of horizontals and verticals, what this does,
it creates a sense of a quietness of classical, which exists.
What piece on is the epitome of classicism.
So now what we get is this figure is coming, going in, but you'll notice that
everything is going in this direction.
He's leading you across the thing.
This is transition from one thing to the next.
Well, at the same time, now this is something that in one of the later
chapters or lessons, I should say
we will be taking it and talking about the subjective as all of this movement
is going to the right, even so you notice the pointing hand going this way.
The other hand, going through, all the lines coming through.
The look is offstage going back, see here we even get the angels taking, moving,
notice the way, but these clouds in here and we see that this is actually
everything, the billowing things, everything is taking and going with it.
And you'll find that the lines as we start going through, everything
is moving the eye, the look of the people is the opposite.
So that there that's a critical part of the thing.
But first now you can notice that we also build into here, notice that
the opposite of creating a movement, you can start looking at the lines.
Start looking at the big lines, that's secondary stuff.
But you want to see all of this stuff builds up.
All this stuff builds up.
We're getting all this movement pushing.
It's the combination of all of this stuff that's making the eye move.
So we take and we, you know, you can not the - again with
Poussin and particularly nothing,
absolutely nothing is extraneous. Okay now is everything is looking that way
notice that you have this arch shape.
I think that's a hill or a bank or something.
Again, that's the opposite now of all these strong movements
going in the other direction.
So let's look - let's take a second here and look at the original here.
Now take a moment and just study this and try to take and maybe even if you
can run your fingers over this to take and feel how the eye is moving through,
noticing that the wings of the angel, but notice every time you draw one little
fragment, carry the eye through it.
So in here is full size
now you can see.
You take the angel on the right with the white wing, well,
look at the figures behind it.
The other angels, they're all, everything is building one into another, yet
on the right hand side, there's a very strong, straight, vertical from
the leg of the character or of the angel all the way down going all the
way up to the figures in the back.
And as I mentioned, we just looked at El Greco and we saw how would he would take
the angels or I should say the clouds, notice how the angel taking, going up the
cloud, the white cloud behind the dark clouds behind, that's all building up.
And so everything in the - you find that there's verticals being created in the
picture that are taking and lining up now.
So when you start to work, when you start to work on your assignment, you
want to take it very clearly, take and be conscious of the frame and
how you take and make that movement.
I would suggest that you try making this - we're talking about transition.
It can be from one line to another.
It can be tone.
Let me show you a very different, very very different example.
Now, you don't have to like certain artists to learn from them.
And Cézanne, a lot of the modern contemporary people who are taking
and dealing with figurative work, copper paintings and what have you,
they dismiss all of this stuff.
That's a major mistake.
Like I said you don't have to like somebody to take and learn
from them, but what I want to show here, and this is a point that many
myths that people like Cézanne and
even Picasso were taking and very, definitely looking at the old masters.
Now, if we take, I'm just going to focus on the right-hand side here.
Look at the figures here now.
We're starting with this first figure here.
Now the lines coming through.
The stuff going through notice now as you're doing it is what
the shape right next to it now.
Now this as we're building up and the hair, figure here.
This is building up, takes the hair, takes the pine tree right
behind or whatever kinda tree it makes it look like a cone head.
Okay, but you could see you can't help, but to see how he's organizing
all these elements to take and create a movement taking and going up.
So as you look at these artists, you start to see that they're doing, this
is actually a classical painting.
In one of the lessons we're going to be talking about
working with groups of figures.
This is a very good painting to study that, but notice what you actually have.
You actually have three groups, you've got a group on the left-hand side, you a group
on the right-hand side, we're building up this very classical pyramid approach.
You got the - going to counter, going off on the right-hand side.
Now, these are elements that we'll talk about more, but if you take and study
these paintings, you will see again like the Poussin, and this is who he was
trying to emulate, creating a classical picture, but really focusing on the
abstract elements let to start with.
But it's the idea.
So let's take my scribbling out of the way here and look at, look at
the lines, look at how he leads the eye from one thing to the other.
Also notice that the exact same thing, the objects are all start with, you have
the two groups of figures are on a, like a stage front, they're on a plane, the
depths of the picture maybe 10 feet there.
Then you've got this big space in between.
Then you have another group back here.
And so you're basically dealing with three groups of figures.
But you're taking and it's a stage, literally everything
is repeating the frame.
Working within the frame.
Talking about very, very classical ideas.
So as you're doing your roughs, you're doing your little thumbnails, do you
not get stuck into thinking that it has to be a certain kind of imagery.
It can be purely abstract.
It can be figures.
It can be anything.
That's not the point.
We're talking compositional.
We're talking organization, we're talking about transition
from one element to the next.
And what are we - I like to use this illustration for is to show that how
the ideas of movement have not changed.
How far back they go.
So if we look what's the story here?
We have musicians.
Now notice that like a stage here, we have a, literally a frame
stage or a shell space behind.
The figure of the shadows coming through in between create a sense
of light, but this is a mosaic
so you can start thinking this is all very well-planned out
before it ever got started here.
But look at the idea.
What's this guy doing, playing with the tambourine.
He's raising up with this tambourine and he's hitting the bottom of it.
Look at where he started.
He started all the way up here.
Figure's coming down.
Going through, look at the drapery, the arm, the movement that we sense
here is taking and going with it.
We start with him vertical figure, another vertical figure, but the
drapery now is taking and helping us go.
And now we get this figure is taking and leaning in.
Going through, he's playing these I guess the, these hand symbols, like the
gypsies would use, taking and doing.
So this is, that goes, we can feel this lifting up.
Notice that the leg, the movement now, get the leg here, the leg.
They're keeping beat.
Keeping the thing going.
Eyes are going up, looking up.
This figure is looking down.
It's a beautiful, it's a beautiful little movement, really well thought out.
You notice how he's containing a lot of this stuff within a, he's
got the vertical coming through or just carrying it past helps to
create a sense of movement within it.
Very simple, but it's obviously it's not a static picture.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview1m 0sNow playing...
1. Overview and Lecture9m 33sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. View of Toledo3m 23s
3. Esther Before Ahasuerus3m 23s
4. Finding of Moses3m 47s
5. The Flight Into Egypt6m 14s
6. The Bathers4m 22s
7. Street Musicians Mosaic3m 4s