I was inspired by Robert A Heinlein's quote.
"Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can
look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better
artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to
be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can
look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is...and force the
viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be...and more than that, he
can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see
that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but
simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet,
endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older
than eighteen in her heart...no matter what the merciless hours have
done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me;
we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them."
I've been studying some of the old masters to get a sense of how they arranged multiple figures to create a sense of mood,atmosphere or indeed add to the narrative. Here are some of studies. I've been looking up Gustave Dore, Gerome, Russian Socialist painters, Repin, Shishkin and a few others.
The following is a breakdown of some of the studies. I find it really helpful to do this. Studying the shapes and the implied lines helps me to see how the eye is guided around the painting.
I also find it a really good exercise to experiment with abstract shapes. Designing big, medium and small shapes, contrasting the soft curvy shapes with the hard ones. Soft, round shapes and big S curves evoke emotions of calmness,stability whereas the harder, sharp ones bring out anger, unrest or danger. Molly Bang talks more about this in her wonderful book on composition. If you're working digitally, the lasoo, marquee tool comes in handy to quickly build up compositions. Later on, you can pos…