There are many rules and ideas for composition. No one idea is perfect for all situations. You may have your favorites or you may like to try new ideas frequently. Today I’m going to discuss the idea of framing. I’m not talking about the frame of the painting but using framing as a composition device.
I most often use framing in landscapes, cityscapes, and sometimes interiors. This means that I’ll often place a large tree or bush near the front of the picture frame, usually on one side or another, with the main view in the middle distance. This leads the viewer’s eye into the painting and directs its focus.
Sometimes in cityscapes, the view might be between two buildings or down an alley.
In a recent couple of paintings of the same subject – a child flying a toy airplane at the park – I first explored just the child and the plane. In the second painting, I used the framing composition to lead the eye from the near subject matter, to the large tree on the left, to the child and plane in the background.
In another couple of paintings, I painted a straight view of a Grand Canyon vista. The second landscape shows the Grand Canyon framed by tree in the front.
Here is an interior view using compositional framing. The doorway, chair and plant, lead the eye through the doorway to the desk in the distance.
There are no hard rules on when to use compositional framing. It’s mostly a matter of what you feel comfortable with, what helps your painting. I’ll often do several thumbnails or even larger charcoal drawings to test the feel of the subject.