Photo-compositing is a whole other world for digital Photographers. It extends the creative vision beyond the conventional, and opens up possibilities that can be unforeseen and dramatic.
But as powerful as digital manipulation can be, restraint and balance is the key. It is far too easy to overindulge in the numerous image controls, and well … produce a meaningless jumble. Which begs the question—is this art?
If you get too far away from anything recognizable, you abandon meaning, you disconnect your audience from any message. Yes, technically it is still art, but truthfully, it’s not. There needs to be a balance, there needs to be an artist’s intuition deep inside the mechanics of the image to temper the explosion of possibility.
So, some basic principles are required: light, dark, colour, movement, contrast, texture, mood, interest, message. Something of interest, some traction for mind and emotion to move with. Ultimately, art should convey some aesthetic, one that is appealing and meaningful on some level. The message doesn’t have to be clearly one thing, but it has to speak beyond words. This is art for the artist and for the audience.
Principles aside, there are virtues as well: inventiveness, experience, temperament, restraint and intuition. The artist draws on these to fine tune the outcome, help create the delicate poetry of the visuals. Photo-Compositing therefor is a craft, like any other. The artist ultimately creates the dancer, the music and the performance.
Balance & Symmetry:
Much of my photo-compositing uses balance & symmetry as its foundation; in the case of ‘White Fall’, the mirroring of the graffiti wall is the backbone to the entire piece. However, symmetry can be too intentional and intellectual, so I offset it slightly, make it ‘not perfect’, to break its intentionality slightly. This is my intuition as an artist; to have the art take one step backwards from any crafted ideals, and be more naturally representative of the world. This gives the art soul, by casting a few shadows of reality across its surrealism. Here then is temperament as well, the balance of opposites pumping through its blood stream (real/surreal).
Basically, symmetry provides a sense of pleasing proportionality, as does balance. They are both attractive and comforting to the viewer. Symmetry also has the power to explore simplified subject matter without fear of loosing interest from the audience. They are naturally drawn to it.
Balance is a basic principle of design, it is a tool like contrast, movement, pattern, emphasis, and unity. Balance refers to how parts of the art relate to each other based on their visual weight. If one side does not seem heavier than the other, a visual equilibrium is created.
We as people have a natural desire to seek balance and equilibrium, and so it can be a powerful factor in design. Yet, a work that is unbalanced can also be effective, creating tension, and making the viewer uneasy. Sometimes this can be deliberately done as well.
From there, texture. Layers of it. Branches of leaves jetting out from the corners, framing the centre space. Breaking away from the square format and moving towards something organic. This creates a focus towards the centre and prepares the piece for interest and a message. Two dark arches cut through the backbone and stop the eye, anchoring the space amongst the flittering details.
Although texture in art is rarely the primary design element, it can have impact. It might not be as showy as lines of movement or tonal contrast, but they can provide an additional layer of visual interest that will keep the viewer’s attention beyond all the more obvious parts of the image.
Colour is next, it drives the mood; rust, dirty yellows, sepia tones and black & white, giving the idea of autumn, a season of transition, a season of the soul.
This is colour harmony in action, which is a crucial part of any artwork. It is important because the human brain seeks balance from our visual experiences. So just like composition is important, so too is how you treat colour. If your colour scheme isn’t harmonious a few things can happen:
– Your artwork can appear bland, which makes it underwhelming. Your audience will not take notice.
– Or the opposite can happen, the colours are too chaotic and the viewer recoils from processing the imagery.
The scheme used in this image is an Analogous colour scheme — this is when colours are used that are nearby each other in the colour wheel, which creates a serene visual effect.
The bird is somewhat camouflaged by the leaves, and so it is not immediately apparent, but becomes a discovered focal point, completing its message. Overall the piece is dynamic, airy and cool. Outstretched branches and leaves are open and shimmer with gusts of wind. A bird dives across the scene, coasting towards the centre, giving the piece movement. The arched culvert below host a grassy plot, a good place to catch easy prey before the scant winter months thin out nature’s bounty.
Besides the surrealism, there is something familiar and harmonious going on: a balance of nature and manmade spaces, bird and trees, concrete and culvert; not quite black and white, and not full colour either, but a balance of opposites.