Composition and Viewpoint

Exercise: Illustrating visual space

This exercise was intended to be done with images printed out, photocopied at different sizes then arranged to form different compositions, but due to lack of printer ink I decided to use Adobe illustrator to make my designs. Working on the computer worked really well allowing me to manipulate the subjects however I wished. It also allowed me to look at all my compositions together so I could make comparisons. A tree, building and child running were the required subjects for my designs and the images I used were silhouettes, chosen for their simplicity. I didn’t want colour and detail to detract from the focus for the exercise.

I started off simply, by creating a horizontal design with each element in relative scale to each other. The house is slightly in the foreground placed in front of the tree with the child slightly behind running forward. The elements placed horizontally like this creates a ‘normal’ looking scene with a child running around his home.

Next I placed each element vertically with trees creating a horizon and the house in front of them. Making the child large and placing him in front of the house suggests that he is running away scared from something in the house (it does look a bit haunted!). Positioning the subjects in this way creates an eerie, dramatic feel as the viewers eye is led through the image wondering what has happened to make the boy run away.

I experimented with this effect by trying out the tree in front of the house. It didn’t make sense with the tree directly in front of the house so I moved it slightly to the left and added a horizon ‘hillside’ line. Although the objects are still essentially positioned vertically, the diagonal hillside gives it distance and space. The viewer’s eye is drawn diagonally from the left corner up the hill then back to the boy. This, together with the smaller house means this composition doesn’t look as menacing as the previous one.

Similarly, the design below uses a hillside horizon and diagonal positioning to create distance. The small house makes it looks less threatening making the boy appear to be leisurely running down the hillside.

In the design below I used more trees gradually reducing in size to create distance and perspective. The eye is drawn from the boy up through the trees to the spooky house. This does create an eerie feel.

Next I created a more playful design. By rotating the boy and positioning him over the tree I was able to make it look like he is swinging upside down. By cropping part of the house and placing the tree slightly in the foreground I have created a happy scene in which a boy is playing in his garden. Adding a horizon line would stop the house from looking like it is floating.

In my final design I put all objects at non vertical or horizontal angles. This created a sense of chaos because nothing is grounded. It looks like everything has been whisked up in a tornado!

Looking at the images next to each other enabled me to make comparisons and choose which composition I think is most successful. The biggest learning point for me during this exercise is how composition directly affects the narrative in the image. Consequently, choosing the most successful image depends on the story I am telling. To tell a story about a boy running from a haunted house, I think the design fifth from the right is most successful. I like the perspective and sense of distance created by the trees together with the drama created by the large figure positioned in the foreground.

If I was telling a story of a carefree child running around happily, I would choose the design on the left. I love the diagonal positioning and the distance it creates.

Image sources:

Tree -

House -

Child running - TopPNG