The idea is to liberate an artist’s power by saying, here are some patterns to work with. Here are some methods, and these can be learned. Sure, you can copy the old masters if you want, but this can be demoralizing, especially early on. Consider instead the play and placement of contrast, and the pictures of the floating world: eagle above dragon, forest among Atlantic cumulus. See them. Over time, an artist will better arrange lines and masses and it may become clear why the term “composition” is too limited. You can spend years studying the science of perspective, anatomy, history––and still manage to miss the essential element, Beauty. As in music, begin with simple exercises. Group a few lines harmoniously. Proceed step by step. This is how an artist’s power grows.
Inspired by (and using phrases from) Arthur Wesley Dow’s Composition (1905), as featured on Public Domain Review.