Like Music, Visual Art Has A Composition

When I was taking art classes, one thing that I was taught totally changed the way I looked at visual art and design. It was the idea that, similar to music, art had a composition. Instead of a composition of beats, notes and tones… visual art has a composition of lines, shapes and colors. Like the rhythm of music, a lot of art pieces have a rhythm of lines and shapes. You can see this very pronounced in the dark lines that cut through the painting in “Blue Poles” by Jackson Pollock. In this image the music bar was overlayed to show the rhythm of the painting.

Jackson Pollock painting Blue Poles with music notes

This idea opened up the possibilities in my mind. Painting and drawing weren’t just about rendering objects the best I could in the middle of the canvas. It was now about creating a scene. It was about how the shapes interacted with each other.

I could create a symmetrical composition to show stability…. or I could create an asymmetrical composition with the focal point on one side to add drama and motion.

Also, like music, visual art can create a mood. Rigid shapes and contrasting colors can give a harsh exciting mood like a full rock concert. You can see this is the painting by Paul Klee below. While organic soft shapes and light analogous colors can give a calm mellow feeling like a mellow acoustic song. You can feel this in the Monet painting below. Sometimes this is even illustrated in the album art of a band.

Paul Klee painting - Collection of figures at the Met in New York-1926
Paul Klee – Collection of figures
Claude Monet Painting - Branch of the Seine near Giverny 1897
Monet – Branch of the Seine near Giverny

Of course just adding calculated notes doesn’t make good music. Music comes from the heart and soul. It comes from the expression of the musician. This also carries over to visual art. Drawing shapes on a canvas doesn’t make art. Art is the expression of the artist. The mood they are feeling and the journey of exploration they are taking.

That being said… like music… it helps to practice and build your skills so that you can more accurately express yourself. 🙂

Break down:

Music composition = beats, notes, tones…
Visual art composition = lines, shapes, colors…

Music rhythm = spacing of beats
Visual art rhythm = spacing of lines and shapes

Rock Concert = Electric guitar, crashing symbols, loud vocals…
Striking Art Piece = Rigid shapes, contrasting colors, asymmetrical…

Mellow Acoustic Concert = Acoustic guitar, smooth vocals…
Soothing Art Piece = organic soft shapes, light analogous colors…

Good Music = Comes from heart and soul
Good Art = Comes from heart and soul!

Thanks for reading!
-jason