Part Two: Project One: Composition Research

Reason for Research

Composition is mentioned within this part of the course, so I decided to do a little research of my own to enrich the actual Research Point for this project, which requires me to look at and compare approaches of traditional and contemporary artists in their still life pieces so I would have a better understanding of what I should be questioning.


Composition is the arrangement of objects and their placement on the canvas in such a manner as to be both aesthetically pleasing to the artist, but also the viewer.  Composition has been a key part of all artwork throughout history, whether to increase the sense of balance in the piece or to work against it and, although our course manual advises there are no specific rules to follow, I found that some artists do, indeed,  follow some basic instruction or attempt to challenge the ‘rules’ others may generally follow, the ideas of which I will explain below:

Rules of Composition

There are several rules artists have followed throughout history to improve their responsiveness to the viewer.  Some of these rules (notably ones I wish to look into further in the future) are:

Rule of Thirds

Fig. 1.  Rule of Thirds (unknown)

This rule means dividing the page into nine equal squares / rectangles.  Images are then placed on or close to vertical and horizontal lines as these are meant to be the most aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.

Rule of Odds

Fig. 2. Rule of Odds (unknown)

It is thought that uneven numbers of objects are more pleasing to the eye than even numbers. 

Triangles have also been used in many pieces throughout history due to their uneven number of sides.  Triangles may be included in art as such things as apex roofs or even a group of three people sitting together in a hypothetical triangle shape.

Rule of Space

Fig. 3. Hornblower, K Rule of Space (2016)

This rule is used when the artist wishes the viewer’s focus to be drawn in a specific way or to create the idea of movement such as the subject of the painting looking towards a certain direction with a lot of open space toward the same direction or the subject’s eyes following the viewer as they move around the room.


Fig. 4. Hornblower, K Simplification (unknown)

I quite like this rule and believe I have used it quite regularly myself already without knowing the significance.  Being someone who does not really enjoy fine detail within their work, I tend to simplify backgrounds and other details of my work (such as simplifying writing and other finer details) anyway.

Geometry and Symmetry

Fig. 5. Niaz Composition with Cloud (2008)

This is another rule I think I use somewhat without realising within my work.  I rather enjoy symmetry within my pieces, but also enjoy challenging this (sometimes without meaning to if I haven’t measured my objects out correctly before beginning working into them and they then run off the page in places).


I decided to carry out some quick experiments with some of the rules and composition in general within my sketchbook, as shown below:


I find the whole concept of ‘rules’ rather daunting and understand why the course implies there aren’t any formal rules, but I have found that some of them do actually help me when considering how I want to display my pieces. This is definitely something I will try and consider moving forward, specifically the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Odds. I think concentrating on too many of these ‘rules’ at once may become overwhelming and lead to a bit of a messy and overly complex composition.

NB: Citation for images used in my sketchbook can be found by clicking here.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Rule of Thirds Landscape (unknown) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 2. Rule of Odds (unknown) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 3.  Hornblower, K Rule of Space (unknown) [Watercolour painting] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 4. Hornblower, K Simplify! (unknown)[Watercolour painting] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 5. Niaz Composition with Cloud (2007) At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)


Naghi, L (2017) ‘Rule of Thirds’ In: [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

‘Rule of Odds: Three’s Company’ In: Composition [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Hornblower, K (2016) ‘Hornblower Watercolours: The Ramblings of an Artist’ In: Keith [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

‘Composition (Visual Arts)’ In: At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

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