Artists choose design elements such as color, light and size to frame their compositions. Many fine artists follow compositional rules to create their artwork within some basic guidelines, while staying flexible and true to their own creative process. Rules of composition pertain to balance, movement and symmetry. These provide guidance for an artist regarding the use of color, light and size.
The balance of an artwork requires looking at the subject, background and interaction among elements. The compositional rule of thirds means that the central subject is contained in approximately one-third of the total frame. The background image has another approximate third of the composition. Other subject matter or the interaction of subject is contained within the remaining third of the artistic composition. The rule of thirds is discussed as it balances the composition of a piece of two-dimensional art.
Another element to the composition’s rule of thirds is the use of shadow and light. True black, and true white will give the artwork form and exaggerate a distinction of shapes. Not every composition contains all the elements of shadow and light. Artists will manipulate this compositional rule of thirds to elaborate the context of their artwork. This rule of thirds is used to critique the image and discuss the interaction of the artwork’s features like color, light and shadow, or form and shape.
Any two-dimensional artwork (painting, photographs, drawing) can be discussed in terms of movement. The artwork is a still image, but the viewer’s eye is drawn into the composition according to rule of movement. This compositional rule examines the artist’s choice of subject, color (or lack of color) and framing. A suggestion of movement is a powerful tool. Features of the composition create a sense of movement between separate elements. In art, the visual movement within the composition’s frame explains ways in which the viewer then imagines how the subject flows off the page, beyond the canvas. Art’s compositional movement is expressed through the light source, interactions of subjects, and framing.
The rule of symmetry can be best understood as a rule of harmony or opposition. If the subject or focal point of the artwork does contain symmetry, how does that affect the background? When there is a lack of symmetry, or an asymmetrical design, what effect will this create for the rule of movement? Symmetry and asymmetry are opposites that encourage the viewer to examine balance and movement in the composition. A composition can be framed to provoke a realistic natural perspective with symmetry. A formal balance in artwork produces a mirror effect–both sides of the composition are essentially the same. Symmetry can be adjusted to provide insight and emphasize relationships within the artwork. The rule of symmetry may be de-emphasized to remove any particular focal point within the composition.