A Word (or Two!) About Composition

Sandra Bruce posting today. I have had many people ask me in the course of teaching my technique “Material Matrix” about what makes a good photograph to turn into a quilt. I would like to do a brief “Show and Tell” using photographs from my own library of photos to illustrate a few points that I think are helpful, both in making quilts and just taking photos in general.

First, I feel strongly that scale is one of the most important elements of  good design. It’s OK to get CLOSE. Plopping your subject in the middle of your background with space all around can be pretty boring, especially if it’s dead center. (There are exceptions to this, however.) Getting close to your subject brings the viewer into your quilt or photo. Here’s an example below:  It’s nice and close, but the cropping is awkward, especially on the right, where his mouth gets chopped off.

: asleep floor:in red pjs4

What happens when we get even closer? Whoops!! Too close! Let’s try again.

: asleep floor:in red pjs 3 Perfect! This is now a great photo and would make a good quilt design. Nice balance of elements, a couple of diagonals lines (always good in a composition) and good values of light to dark.

: asleep floor:in red pj copy

Here’s a photo taken at Fort Ross State Park here in California. It’s a nice enough photo, but there isn’t much of a focal point, and your eye doesn’t know where to go first. The fort is too far away and the trees dominate the image.

10 2002_0221_114334AAThis is much better. The scale of each item has more variety, and the diagonal of the fence makes a nice complement to the vertical trees and brings you into the scene. With some tweaking this could make a nice quilt.15 2002_0221_114756AA

Flowers are such a popular subject for photographs and quilts. Here are 3 examples of nice compositions that have a lot going for them. Notice they’re fairly close up.IMG_4355IMG_0524_2

IMG_8593

The quilt I made called “Matteo and the Amaryllis” is a good example of cropping to get to the essence of the image. Here’s the original photo I took, and below it, the cropped version. I wanted to focus on his profile, and the flower. The background and hat are unimportant. Notice the tip of his nose on the flower in the cropped version is not dead center, it’s a better place for the focal point!IMG_5898

MP amaryllis cropped

 Here’s a photo of an old car that could be interesting in a quilt, but you have to use your imagination to think of how it might become a better composition. Off the top of my head, I would take out the bikes and the houses in the background, focusing on the car only, and change the car color to give more contrast between the grass and the car. What I’m getting at is that sometimes a photo needs work but has potential to become a good composition. Playing in Photoshop or even cutting out color copies to get what you want can make it work for you.

IMG_3748

Sometimes something as simple as changing the vantage point of the camera can make a better photo. Here I put the camera on the counter looking up at these pickle jars. Wouldn’t this make an interesting quilt?IMG_2879_2Lastly, here’s the photo I’m using for the quilt I just started, my son Matteo again, in black and white this time. I wanted to challenge myself to work in black, white and grey only. I love this photo for its simplicity, value changes, and how it captures his expression, which will be the biggest challenge.M quilt b:w ideaBe brave in taking photographs to use in quilts. Play around until you have what you want. Get close. A good quilt image starts with a good photo! All the photos in this post were taken by myself or Gary Pierazzi.

I hope you have gained a little something from this post. We all (Artistic Alchemy) appreciate hearing from you. We’re getting excited about our Zephyr Cove Retreat and I can’t wait to see what participants create! Have a good week, everyone.

 

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4 thoughts on “A Word (or Two!) About Composition

  1. Love the photo of the car. Is that Bodie, California? Have you thought of adding your web site embedded in your photos for copyright protection? I would love to see some of your finished quilts.

    • Hi, Robin, yes that is Bodie. And yes, I need to start doing a watermark when I show photos. You can view some of my quilts on my website, sandrabruce.com!
      Thank you for commenting!

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