Pictorial Composition: An Introduction by Henry Rankin Poore (book review).

In his book, ‘Imaginative Realism’, James Gurney spent a lot of time on the mechanics of composition and how to engage the viewer. He also noted two composition books. One was far too expensive to even consider. The other is ‘Pictorial Composition: An Introduction’ by Henry Rankin Poore, originally published in 1967, is more accessible.

Picture composition applies to not only illustration but also photography. When I bought this book off the long river website, I also bought one for photography as well and suspect much of its instruction will be the same as here and will give a look next month.

For art, many artists do have a natural inclination for composition of the page so books like this one is more to do to refine the skill and add some areas of thinking. Henry Poore uses the classic paintings to show how the grand masters composed their pages. Whether they did the composition mechanics or just took to it isn’t revealed but it’s more a learning exercise and why it works. It isn’t always necessary to have the centre of attention of the painting right in the middle of the painting. Having it slightly off centre draws the eye to it. If you think about it, your eye likes symmetry but is drawn (sic) to something a little askew. With multiple parts of the composition, pyramids, rule of thirds and even circular can be used to check to see if the design is going to be sound and what needs to be tightened to be more effective. Poore also points out the need for something to disengage the viewer from the picture as well.

In some respects, I did think having most of the paintings in small size black and white made them a little blurry. However, in composing, you need to know the shape more than the detail.

You should also remember this is an introduction to composition not a masterclass. If you want to improve your art and an understanding of the technical aspects then this book will give you some art for thought and learning some new lessons..

GF Willmetts

January 2021

(pub: Dover. 96 page, including a colour section, illustrated indexed softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-486-23358-1)

check out website: www.doverpublications.com

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