golden rule of proportions


Hi guys!

Since I’m going through a learning curve myself, thought I should share with you some stuff on composition, since I did talk about it a bit in my previous video.

Now, first of all, a disclaimer: I am no expert in this matter, by any means! It’s just stuff I have observed, or that I have learned as well from other sources. I am also still trying to wrap my head about composition, and I still struggle with it sometimes, but I figured that doing a illustrated post about it might reinforce these concepts a bit for myself…and if it helps you too in any way, than all the better!

Also, I want to add the following: my personal view on the matter is that while rules are meant to be followed, they are also meant to be broken :D I say this because there are several artists and great masters out there which have broken these rules throughout history and thus still created masterpieces, offering a new perspective on things. Art is after all subjective, and people will always be divided in their opinions. This does not mean that someone is right or wrong, it simply means that what one might find pleasing to the eye, another person might not. That being said, there is no painting out there that does not follow a composition rule of some sort, even if they break certain rules.

So without further rambling, let’s get down to business!


1. Rule of thirds:

This  is possibly one of the most known rules of composition. It basically means that when you split your painting into nine squares, your subject matter should be placed at the intersection cross of the squares, for it to draw attention better.

2.Horizon line should not be at the center of the painting.

This rule mostly applies to landscape paintings. This line of the horizon should be dragged either further up or down, usually at 1/3 of the painting.

That being said, take a look at this painting done by Albert Gottschalk.

Clearly here the line is in the middle. Still, I find this painting marvelous, even if it does break this rule.

3. The Golden Ratio (or Divine proportion)

This is another famous rule of composition. Some words first about this Golden Ratio, and what it means. Approximately equal to a 1:1.62 ratio, The Golden Ratio can be illustrated using a Golden Rectangle: a large rectangle consisting of a square (with sides equal in length to the shortest length of the rectangle) and a smaller rectangle. This ratio has been used throughout history, and can also be found all around us. Some even say that this principle has also been used to build the Great Pyramids.

In art, when applying this principle, the painting will seem to draw in the subject instantly and make for a very pleasing composition.

4. Implied lines

When painting realistically, there is no actual line around the subject. Thus, the illusion of contour is a result of different values and colors contrasting, and also a way to drag the eye around the painting by using the natural attraction to lines.

5. Reinforcing Focal Points

This method is particularly useful when doing portraits or having character subjects. You can use various elements around your character to drag the attention towards the face or any other specific part. This is achieved by adding elements such as arms, objects like weapons, etc to point towards your focal point, where you wish the attention of the viewer to be drawn.

6. Threes are everywhere

This is a composition rule which has to do mostly with value, using foreground, middle ground and background.

When we use this composition, we are mostly trying to emphasize the subject of interest with the darkest values (so foreground), and thus background should use light values (since it is the farthest away) while middle ground will use middle values (between the other two).

This is a great way to make silhouettes easy to read.

7. Contrast

Another way to have a strong composition is by using your contrast wisely. This means that wherever you want your focal point to be, that is where you should use more contrast. For example, if you have a very pale character, adding dark hair or clothes will immediately make the character pop.

8. Camera Angles

This method is particularly useful when we want to add more drama to a scene. In order to make it more interesting, a simple shift in perspective will instantly add more interest to the viewer.

These are just a few of the rules of composition, since there are so many more out there. I just listed some of these while studying my own work to get a better understanding of the issue. Obviously, they are not perfect and there is still much to learn, but  I am definitely enjoying my journey through it all.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter or your input.

As always, lots of hugs and take care of yourselves.

Happy arting!