Learn to Draw > Color Composition

An example of color composition We have already seen that the effect of perspective can be created by the exclusive use of color or of lines and other graphic methods; or by a combination of the two. The same holds true for pictorial representation. You will easily discover whether a composition is executed by means of color alone, or graphically, or the two together, if you make a black and white photographic print.

If the composition was drawn graphically, the black and white picture will be clearly defined; if color was used, the monochrome reproduction will have no clear lines. With sufficient knowledge and experience, you should be able to visualize this without bothering to test it.

The same means can be used to distinguish between perspective achieved by line or color. The fact remains that the principles of color and line are much more closely related in respect to composition than to perspective.

A composition is not built up in the same way as linear perspective, and "rules" in the strict sense do not apply. Composition is far more a matter of sensibility than of logic. Let us review the various means by which a picture can be composed:

First, the "selective" picture; by this is meant the best picture a photographer can obtain, given the size of his camera, It is an entirely passive exercise in the art of composition, as the photographer can only select his composition, neither adding to nor subtracting from it. What he can do is to use special lenses which will bring near objects nearer, or make distant ones appear more distant- in other words, alter the depth of perspective. The photographer is also bound by the size of his plate and his film, and the most he can do afterwards is to crop it and adjust the size of the picture accordingly.

Color composition.
Left: One color (yellow): light, medium, dark cadmium yellow - burnt sienna - yellow ochre - Naples yellow (reddish) - raw umber - gray (ultramarine blue, ochre, and alizarin red mixed).
Center: Two contrasting colors (blue and red): light, medium, and dark cobalt blue and oxide of chromium blue - burnt sienna, cadmium red, caput mortuum. 
Right: One main color (green) and several duller subsidiary colors: hydroxide of chromium (green), with traces of pale cadmium yellow - Naples yellow (antimony) reddish, mixed and painted over with ultramarine blue, alizarin red, ochre
On the other hand, draftsmen and painters alike are able, if they so wish, to decide on the best size for their pictures by using an adjustable finder. But there is a good deal more to their art than this passive function, for by bringing objects closer together, or placing them wider apart, they can give the picture content an appearance of greater depth, urgency, or breadth, or otherwise alter it entirely.

In any selective composition the edges of the picture itself are fixed immutably. When these confines are pushed back, fresh, possibly disruptive elements are introduced into the picture. If they are later made to contract, something essential may be left out, spoiling the whole effect of the composition. What is left may be not a picture, but merely a detail. A conscious, active composition does not cling fast to the edge of the picture.

less haphazard than a selective composition, which resembles a view out a window, an "active" composition grows out of a relatively ill-defined expanse, rather like spotlighting a particular scene on a darkened stage, or a landscape at night. The darkness is less of a factor in the event portrayed and serves more to set the tone; here we have life itself, the world, the cosmos. A composition like this does not make one want to look farther, as a selective composition may well do.

Surrounding Color

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