Notes on Composition

Personal notes after reflecting on lectures from (May add to this later):

Composition is all about creating focus.

Create focus by balancing emphasis & economy

  • What are your points of interest?
  • Points of interest should help the eye move around the canvas. (Feels dynamic, interesting and believable).
  • Levels of Emphasis – Primary, secondary, tertiary…
  • How to direct attention? The presence of contrast strengthens emphasis. Contrasting values, colours, directions, ideas/poses/actions.

If most of the picture is uniform and then you have even a small point of difference, that point of difference is very noticeable. Strong focus point.

Other things that pull emphasis:

  • Social proofing – People in the scene looking in a direction. Faces in general draw attention.
  • Amount of detail, soft and blurry backdrop
  • Front to back?



  • A loose pattern with some uniformity and some chaos. The human perception system is pretty geared towards recognising patterns, it really draws the attention.
  • There can be rhythm in many things: placement, colour, shape. (Think about gestalt principles).


  • Works with Rhythm and is a way to introduce more points of interest.


  • Increases organic feel of the scene. Believability.
  • Or it will feel stagnant, although it will feel stately, controlled and safe? Mechanical…? Or make things feel uncanny and creepy.

Continuity – Implied Lines

  • Draw the eye along implied lines. Diagonals look more dynamic. horizontals look safe.


  • Balance detail and calmness throughout the painting.
  • Weigh your visual weights. Is your emphasis heavy enough on your areas of interest?
  • If not careful, composition will feel heavy on one side. Or the hierarchy will feel off.
  • Opposing points of interest feels a connection. (could be diagonal, point symmetry).
  • Divide and conquer – Can divide into quadrants or thirds and analyse, is it balanced enough?

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