Requesting an Opinion on a Composition Matter

BuckyBucky -
edited August 8 in General Discussion
This is a photo I took last night of a staircase in our neighborhood that I’ve always wanted to paint. I took a bunch of photos and this one is the best in terms of lighting and exposure, but I’m torn about whether the composition works in terms of the staircase being front and center, thereby breaking the “3rds rule.” Anyone have any opinions about that compositional issue? Thanks for looking. 

Comments

  • That would make a beautiful painting.  I get the feeling that the stair needs to be a bit to the left.  Maybe crop the left edge a bit.
  • edited August 9
    I wouldn't worry about the "thirds rule", Bucky. Lots of great paintings with central focal points don't accord with it. I think this works as a composition already.  If you wanted to tweak it you could make it accord fairly easily with the "double diapente" of dynamic symmetry. Like this:


    I think this looks better than the "rule of thirds" would. You can play around with it in @Roxy 's little app like
    i have here. But, again, I think it's ok as it is.


    You might also want to think about the bike. It might just be me but it draws me away form the stairway. When I cover it up I move more smoothly through the picture. Maybe omit it or make it less obvious by making the white parts a darker colour. I might also omit the sign at the top of the stairs as it impedes the flow - I want to get to that lovely bit of deep blue sky but the sign blocks me.

    Hope this is helpful. Whatever you do I'm sure you'll make a fine job of it in your inimitable style.  :)
  • Love the concept and the lighting @Bucky. It’s probably just my overly controlling left brain, but something in me wants the hand rail to be perfectly vertical. But that’s probably just me. I think cutting off some of the left hand side as @GTO suggests would help make the tree a more integrated part of the composition. I agree with ditching the bike.  Speaking of dead, reminds me of The Excorcist :)


  • edited August 9
    Here it is again with @Roxy's suggestion of making the central handrail vertical.  I think it looks better vertical. I didn't do a very good job of it. I just quickly skewed it a bit using the perspective tool in Affinity Photo but it gives an idea of what it would look like vertical.


  • CBGCBG -
    edited August 9
    Roxy said:
    Love the concept and the lighting @Bucky. It’s probably just my overly controlling left brain, but something in me wants the hand rail to be perfectly vertical. But that’s probably just me. I think cutting off some of the left hand side as @GTO suggests would help make the tree a more integrated part of the composition. I agree with ditching the bike.  Speaking of dead, reminds me of The Excorcist :)


    @Roxy Maybe it's the face on the fence which has you spooked... :)

    Bucky said:
    This is a photo I took last night of a staircase in our neighborhood that I’ve always wanted to paint. I took a bunch of photos and this one is the best in terms of lighting and exposure, but I’m torn about whether the composition works in terms of the staircase being front and center, thereby breaking the “3rds rule.” Anyone have any opinions about that compositional issue? Thanks for looking. 
    @Bucky If you stop thinking about it, how do you feel about the composition just looking at it... does it have impact for you, does it do something for you, do you like it?  or is something missing ... do you need to keep trying?

    Something to ask yourself is why are you drawn to that scene in the first place?  What about it captivates you in real life?  Then maybe you can figure out which compositions tends to capture that sense you want to have conveyed.

    I suggest you take your other photos with different compositions, and adjust them in software to match the "lighting and exposure" of the good one, so that you do not play favorites.  Then play around, looking at each of them, framing/cropping them differently and, turn your thinking off... and just sense how you feel or react to each potential composition...  does it have impact for you, does it do something for you, do you like it?  Does it convey the sense which inspired you to paint it in the first place? 

    Composition rules are there only help you to find and craft something which might work... they do not guarantee it, and they do not define or delimit what actually does work, (in fact if you used all the rules strictly as "rules" you would end up with something which likely does not work)...

    so keep searching, use principles of composition from time to time to see if it helps, and when it works you'll know it works.  


  • I like @Roxy ‘s questions.   
    I agree with @tassieguy ‘s comment about the sign at the top is the stairs.  I would also remove the stop light.  And tone down the two bright lights.  
    I like the bicycle though.  I think removing it would reduce the narrative.  The bicycle gives me a sense of human touch to it.  And hints at what is not there.  It adds mystery.  
    Your paintings have a “Hopper-ish”. Sense of loneliness.  And this painting fits right in with that.  In a way it reminds me of your night scene of the snow falling in the park.  
  • edited August 9
    Yes, you're probably right about the bicycle, @GTO. It does tell us something. Perhaps it belongs to one of the guys on the stairs. Maybe just lowering the highlights on it a bit would help to make it less of an eye magnet. At the very least I'd remove the amorphous white cover from the seat. 
  • Good points @GTO I may play around with doing some cropping on the left, though I do like having that building at least somewhat visible as I do think it adds something. I do like the bike, too, though I do think it needs to be toned down a bit. And totally agree about toning down the two lamps; they are definitely a bit overexposed in the photo. Thanks so much for your advice! 
  • @tassieguy wow, that is such an improvement adjusting it like that on the grid! The handrail is better vertical like that! And totally agree about the signs at the top of the stairs -- it works much better without that for better flow. I think I will probably keep the bike, but you're right about toning it down -- will definitely get rid of the white plastic bag on the seat : ) Thanks so much! 

    tassieguy
  • Great call about the handrail, @Roxy @tassieguy adjusted it and I agree it's much better that way. Thank you so much  I will definitely take a look at your app, too!  :)
  • Thanks @CBG Those are really good considerations to think about! I have a lot of photos that are from different angles and I do like this composition the best, despite my concern that I mentioned. That concerns have been alleviated, especially with the suggestions on tweaks so I will probably go with this. Now my biggest concern is trying to tackle a painting like this. It's going to be a challenge!!  Thanks again!
  • edited August 10
    I'd love to paint that tree trunk, @Bucky. I'd do a base colour of violet tinged with umber and a touch of white - this would form the shadows on the left side of the trunk and between the raised areas of the fluted bark. On top of this, for the lighter areas of bark, I'd use mixtures of violet, umber, yellow ochre/cadmium orange and cadmium green all lightened with white where needed for the brightest areas. If using a limited palette you could mix all these colours from various combinations of  brown, yellow, red, and blue all lightened as needed with white. The foliage would be fun, too. Cadmium green and phthalo green modified where needed with umber and white. And I'd probably add another couple of bracts of the lilac wisteria flowers. 

    What I would find most difficult about this would be the straight lines of the fences, handrails and stairs. You'll need a steady hand for those. There are some lovely gradations from dark to light in the handrails.

    Have fun with it. I can't wait to see how you deal with it.  :)
  • Thanks for those helpful tips, @tassieguy. I do paint with a limited palette -- the Geneva Essential Palette. Now that I'm feeling ready to proceed in re: to tackling the drawing of the composition, I am starting to also realize the challenge this will be on the whole, but looking forward to going for it. I'm also thinking about making this a large one, 30" x 36" as I want to start pushing myself to do larger paintings. My schedule is a bit crazy coming up so will probably be at least a couple of weeks until I near completion. Thanks again! :) 
  • @Bucky, I find that it's easier to paint realism on a big canvas rather than a small one. 30" X 36" is a nice size. And it doesn't matter how long it takes. Once you have the composition worked out and the drawing done the rest takes as long as it takes.   :)
    Bucky
  • A little different take. The stairs are still dramatics. The lights were a problem for me. Mysterious figures dealing in stolen bicycle parts.
  • That's a very interesting take, @KingstonFineArt I'm actually thinking I'll cut the guys on the stairs, but I think I'll keep the bike. And I think I prefer the full picture, but i hear you about the lights. They will definitely need to be toned down a bit as they're a little overexposed in the photo. Thanks!
  • I think the trees make the picture, or certainly the one on the left, especially if you are keeping the bike in as it needs a counter balance somehow.  Perhaps move the bike to below the tree on the left and have the stairs more to the right of the painting?
    You could have fun with the lights, like giant car headlights, "...check it out....2 moons"!  the dark sky behind is also an important part of the appeal as far as my tastes go.   
    Bucky
  • Bucky said:
    And I think I prefer the full picture
    I'm definitely no expert in design but as with TassieGuy I like the full picture also. I tend to only turn to the 'rules' when there's something not working. And this works for me. The architectural symmetry of the man-made stairs framed by stubbornly meandering nature doing its own thing. Symmetry offset by asymmetry. That's what I like about it. The centrality of the stairs is the natural human view that invites us to climb into the depth above. There's no better way* to invite us to lift our gaze to your focal point than putting stairs right in front of us. All the perspective lines on building and slope pull you towards the top of the stairs also, as does the lovely bend of the fence into the handrails.
    *Figure of speech, not an absolute statement.




    tassieguyBucky
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