Sketchbook Notes - Why Composition is Key


Hi all,

I would like to share a sketchbook note with you. Its about the importance of Composition in picture making.

I wanted to make my Hero character look Heroic, powerful, beautiful. - Its easy to say that those are the qualities you want but how can you go about actually boosting those qualities in an image? - You can use compositional tools!

The tool that I used is called a 1.5 rectangle armature. This tool comes from a technique called “Dynamic symmetry”

The energy of this picture comes from setting the camera angle low and aligning features to the triangles of the armature.

I learned about composition from Glenn Vilppu over at New Masters Academy as well as a free YouTube playlist featuring Myron Barnstone where he teaches many things, including Dynamic Symmetry

If you are interested in the Barnstone Play List, I recommend cutting to the following lessons;
Lesson 01 Ch 02
Lesson 01 Ch 03
Lesson 01 Ch 04
Lesson 02 Ch 04


Awesome! Thanks for sharing! Myron Barnstone is my hero!


Happy to see this here and hope to see you dropping advice on others threads as well. Cheers


Where the sketches.


Really cool. thank you for these ! Its always good to learn how to have an appealing composition.


Back in school I tried exploring dynamic symmetry. No one picked up on what I was doing and the only feedback I got was, “just throw some people in the background.” This broke my brain after composing an entire scene. It also broke my spirit… because my interest in mysticism inspired me through many academic projects. Not this time.

On the final I ran out of time to make changes while maintaining the integrity of composition. I was screwed. After this disaster my creative soul dried up. Could only focus on giving these teachers exactly what they asked for… but they were being obnoxiously ambiguous and purposefully contradicting themselves to make things harder. Something about failing forwards? Well all my work turned to garbage and I graduated with nothing but confusion.

So after my experience I think the thing about dynamic symmetry is it’s yes and no. Yes you can have those intentions but that doesn’t mean they’re useful… or effective outside of your own cult-like conditioning. Like I asked an “expert” the reasoning behind baroque and arabesque diagonals. He said they are that way because it’s how he was taught. Lol

I mean, some classical paintings are kinda cool to see where things line up… but I feel modern applications are just falsely projecting nonsense as a foundation-


Sorry to hijack this thread but I really needed to vent some thoughts on this subject.


I should explain my post further to avoid any confusion about what seems to be a very misunderstood topic…( I will make time to further clarify my process and add more soon (as well as correct spelling mistakes.)

Composition is a huge subject and the armature I used to help position the camera was just one tiny part of my project. Composition is a way of thinking that helps you make choices during the process of making pictures.

To me, composition is about thinking what a character is made of and designing the relationships between things. Composition helped me to design my characters costume, her hair, how she is posed and the position of the camera and lights.

Using that 1.5 rectangle armature helped me position the camera to try and get as may triangular lines and co-incidences as possible. I even changed her hair because the camera position and armature, I used her hair as a plumb line and to end below the breast.

I feel like I made every choice with a mindset of composition.

  • Soft vs Hard.
  • Straight vs Curved.
  • Squad vs Stretch.
  • Warm vs Cool.

The composition of complimentary opposes was huge to me. I even composed how much muscle and fat she should have. You cant see it but Max has fat on her body to make her soft and approachable but she is also muscular and heroic. (Those are compositional choices about what her body is made of and why)

I posed her in a very symbolic way that was inspired by Venus de Milo…suggesting that Max is a kind of goddess. I put the camera low and zoomed in to make her look epic. All those choices allowed me to push the story and emotion of the image. - So, for me, composition happens as part of the whole process from beginning to middle to end.

What your teacher means is the only way to become truly amazing at something means to cast off mediocrity which requires you to endure a long process of suffering. Learning from mistakes is the path all artists need to take to become great.

I broke hundreds of times before I could make Max.


Well I did not slap composition grids on at the end. Not sure why you keep saying that. Never said you do that either.

As for mileage, I’ve suffered through 10 years of academic/art school… so I have plenty of experience to backup my opinions. Coincidentally I trained from a variation of the Vilppu method so I appreciate where you’re coming from.

I’m still constantly learning and teaching myself… but part of that process is needing to make deeper sense of all this art shit.

Saw this sorta dead thread and it seemed worth it to share my views beyond the surface, maybe make better sense of what I feel. Should at the very least be interesting for others to read haha.

Anyways man, looking forward to seeing what else you challenge yourself with… because I KNOW how incredibly difficult being a thoughtful artist is!


Yeah no worries. I look forward to new challenges too :slight_smile: - I edited my post because it was probably a bit presumptuous and harsh.

I had experience with really bad training schools in the past and it took me a while to accept the fact that I needed to teach myself using resources I could afford. I let nature be the teacher and I regarded people who are better than me as commentators I could learn from. Great Masters are, in a way, advanced students.

Sorry for the mistake man, but heaps of people do slap armatures on at the end ~ its so common. Actually putting the armature on at the end wont result in a ‘mistake’ as long as your mind is thinking in terms of composition during the entire process from beginning to end.

What I would look forward to seeing from you would be some copies from movie frames. Like, choose Steven Spielberg movies…Bridge of Spies for example and copy some of those frames. Also breakdown why you think the frame is set that way in relation to the story. It will help you compose your sot of the mech and maintenance workers.

You reminded me to be more careful what I say and that I should take the time to breakdown exactly what I believe composition to be. I should make the proper time to perfectly breakdown how I made Max and my personal ideas of composition.