Visual Imagination…what is it?

Every artist however skilled he is, always gets 
doubts on Composition and Design at least once in a 
while, if not every day. The nature of the subject is 
like that. If it’s easy to understand, we won’t be 
talking about it. 

Boats                        Artist : Magunta Dayakar

One of my students asked me….  
 ” Sir. You are saying Composition is more difficult than Design! Why?”

” It is all a play on a picture space. To play we have to use a tool. That is Composition. If design is a plan, composition is the tool to execute that plan playing with the elements of art. I told you already, applications are always more difficult than planning.

You see… here we have few elements. With that we have to create a scene. A scene is a space. That space is empty until you put some shapes. Those shapes have to be turned into forms using light. We see that light through colors.
Think… all these are applications. To make the space pleasant, you have to use these applications with lot of tools. These tools we call as principles. Principles are the tools you have to use to work on something. If you want to be the best in composition you have to know about these principles. ”

” What are these principles? ”

” Variety, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Balance, Emphasis, Pattern and Rhythm. These principles interact with elements. They choose the variety of shapes, values, colors … and will turn all elements into one family. That should be harmonious. This leads to unity. Achieving this unity means that you are successful in your applications. That means Composition.”

 ” I am a bit confused Sir, please tell me some more about these principles .I am not able to understand them, they always confuse me. For example ‘ Variety ‘ as a word there is no confusion. Everybody knows the meaning of it. Same with Contrast, Repetition, Balance and others. But the problem is we do not know how to use it in work.”

” Dear young lady, this is the problem more or less every art student usually suffers. They try to apply these principles without understanding them. There they fail. Usually what happens? First they learn about them. Then they will get excited because they think they knew some secrets of painting. They become confident that they are able to apply design and composition in their work. Then they will start. Suddenly some problem will happen which they didn’t expect. They become frustrated. Confused. Then they lose their confidence. ”

 ”Yes! Exactly it’s happening to me. Why?” She asked me.

 ”Answer is very simple and complex.”

She is looking at me questioningly.

 ”….visual Imagination.” I answered.

She was in silence for a few moments. Coming out of that silence she asked me.
”I don’t get it sir!”

I explained to her, ”First you have to imagine what you want to paint on your canvas. You have to see the anatomy of the particular picture in your mind. Then only you have to start work with your tools. Things will turn in your favour.”

”Anatomy of the picture!?”

” Yes. Anatomy of the picture. That means whatever you want to show the viewer in your finished painting, you have to see the basic structure of it in your in your mind’s eye. This is called Visual Imagination. When you are able to get this visual imagination, then your tools will follow. That is the coordination between mind, eye, hand and tools. Every Artist requires these visual imagination skills when it comes to applications on picture space or any actual space.

(Excerpt from my book ‘ What am I missing in my Painting)

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