Art Lesson: Improving Composition

The Set Up
When drawing a flower, or some other subject, you might feel you captured what was in front of you well enough but something just doesn't seem satisfying about the drawing. Your composition might be part of the problem. Below is a line drawing of some daylily blossoms growing in my front yard. I wanted to focus on the blooms, I love their color, and wanted to create this drawing as a sketch for a painting I would do later. When I was finished drawing the sketch I felt I captured what was in front of me rather accurately.

Unfortunately, upon further review, my drawing felt cluttered to me while at the same time seemed to have too much space in it. The overall effect was not pleasing. Often when you are unsure about your artwork you might have conflicting opinions about the same drawing.

Despite what is in front of you, sometimes you have to rearrange your composition to make your drawing stronger and more interesting. Mother nature does not always face the best composed view of her beauties towards us. Now, moving things slightly to create a stronger composition is different than lying. I do not condone making things up, but I do encourage students to find the composition that best reflects their subject. What changes would you make?

What changes did I make?
Change 1: The buds located behind the lower bloom were partially hidden from view. The stem for the buds also lined-up awkwardly with the edge of the petal in front of it. I decided to bring these buds up above the bloom petals so the viewer could see them. I often represent a plant in different stages of development. This was an opportunity for that.

Change 2: In front of the lower bloom is a spent bloom that has curled up and will fall off the plant soon. This was blocking the open bloom. I pivoted the spent bloom on the stem so that it was no longer blocking the open bloom. I placed its stem parallel to the edge of the open bloom petal for a strong sense of space between them. The spent bloom is now horizontal to the bottom of the composition which gives the drawing added strength and a base on which to build.

Change 3: I removed some of the extra buds and branches in the background. These created too much clutter. In botanical art, it is common to cut out parts of a plant in order to better express the plant. But, the fact that something has been removed is expressed by truncating the stem not simply by removing it as if it never existed.

Change 4: The composition was still a bit leggy, I felt that there was too much space between the two blooms. I compacted the composition by moving the entire back bloom section down closer to the front bloom. Day lilies bloom in clusters, and this change provided that feeling, as well as creating a more compact and powerful composition. The final composition is square with a strong horizontal element at the bottom; very strong.

Below is the final drawing of the composition. I was quite happy with it.