The Picture Plane: Divide and Conquer

Today’s message comes from Mark Mehaffey, who wrote the following for Watercolor Artist (February 2013). He says that “when it comes to painting, most of us want to pick up our brushes and dive right in. That way of working is fun, but only occasionally will it result in a great painting. If you want your paintings to reach their full potential, developing your awareness of compositional issues and planning your design will substantially increase your odds. To make a painting–whether it be a landscape, still life, portrait or abstract–that captures visual interest, one of the basic principles of composition you must learn to master is division of the picture plane.” Keep reading for Mark’s sage advice on dividing the picture plane for successful composition!

Get more instruction from Mark Mehaffey at ArtistsNetwork.tv

“East on Big Bay (watercolor on paper, 22×30) represents an east-facing view from one of my favorite fishing spots,” says Mark. “I simplified the shapes and divided the picture into unequal segments for maximum impact.”

Rule of Thirds by Mark MehaffeyRule of Thirds by Mark Mehaffey (click here to share this on Twitter)

You can create exciting divisions of space by placing the major horizontal and vertical lines in your painting so that they divide the picture plane into unequal spaces. Asymmetrical shapes generate excitement; symmetrical ones create visual boredom.

So, if you’re painting a landscape, avoid putting the horizon line exactly halfway between the top and bottom edges of the paper. Instead, try placing it one-third of the way down from the top or one-third of the way up from the bottom. The same goes for vertical lines: Place strong vertical elements not at the center but left or right of center.

Once you’ve planned your asymmetric placement of vertical and horizontal lines, try placing important shapes in your composition at or near a spot where those lines intersect. This principle is called the “rule of thirds.” Use it consistently to plan your paintings and see how much more interesting your compositions become. ~MM

Like what you see? Get more in-depth instruction from Mark in his newest DVDs from ArtistsNetwork.tv:

• Abstract Painting: Watermedia on YUPO
• Watercolor Painting on YUPO: Painting Waterfalls
and
• Paint Acrylic Landscapes en Plein Air
• Paint Acrylic Landscapes: Light and Shadow en Plein Air

Learn more from Mark Mehaffey in these new DVDs

The painting above is from one of Mark’s plein air painting sessions in a meadow. Get inspired, and get painting!

Until next time,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!

Don’t miss this bonus article on the evolution of one’s art. 

 

You may also like these articles:

COMMENT