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More Compositional Tools. (Focal point and Emphasis, Rhythm, and Scale & Proportion). What is the artist asking us to pay attention to?How is he doing that?. Gericault, Horse Attacked by a Tiger. EMPHASIS. Gives prominence to part of a design—makes one part more important than others.

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more compositional tools

More Compositional Tools

(Focal point and Emphasis, Rhythm, and Scale & Proportion)


What is the artist asking us to pay attention to?How is he doing that?

Gericault, Horse Attacked by a Tiger

  • Gives prominence to part of a design—makes one part more important than others

Degas, The Café Singer

Focal points are compositional devices used to create emphasis:

an element in the composition that commands the viewer’s attention and invites them to look closer.

emphasis by contrast occurs when one element differs from others
Emphasis by contrast occurs when one element differs from others
  • A light element in a mostly dark design
  • When most elements are soft edged, a hard edged component becomes the focal point
  • If most things are realistic the expressive part is the focal point (or vice versa)
  • Text or graphic symbols
  • When most shapes are consistent but a few differ (circles in a square design)

What element is different than others?

Jeff Wall, The Pine On the Corner


Emphasis by isolation: when one element is placed off from others to show difference/importance. What other devices are used to create emphasis?

Eakins, the Agnew Clinic


Jacque-Louis David, The Oath of the Horatti

Emphasis by Placement: many elements point to one area; our attention is directed there.



Compositionally, how is he making the roses a focal point in the print?



Christ Descending from the Grave

DOMINANCE: Attracts a viewer’s attention through one element overwhelmingthe piece

What dominates here, and how is that achieved?


All over design: focal points are eliminated to emphasize the surface of the entire piece, rather than a small area.

Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing


James Ensor, Christ’s Entry Into the City

Where is the focal point? What is emphasized?


SCALE: A term for size. Usually refers to the size of the object relative to the human body or thestandard size of the object.

Robert Therrien, Stacked Plates


FraFillipiPolli, Saint Lawrence

Heirarchical scale: importance is determined by size


Refers to relative size, measured against other elements in a composition. For example, in these caricature images, certain features are out of proportion (ears, chin) relative to the rest of the face---in this case, for comic effect.


Charles Ray, Family Romance

Illustration of Scale and Proportion shifts


Contrast of scale: when different scales are used within the same image

Rene Magritte, Personal Values


Rhthym: a visual as well as musical sensation. Related to the impression of movement.

Bridget Riley, Drift


Chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Repeating forms give the impression of rhythm, creating patterns.


Progressive rhythm: shapes changing in a regular manner. Here, the oil stains from parked cars get darker and larger the closer the parking spaces are to the store.

Ed Ruscha, Goodyear Tires, Laurel Canyon, CA


Alternating rhythm:

Motifs alternate regularly to create a pattern

Robert Delaunay, Composition



When a visual experience stimulates another sense. Here, the sense of sound

Malevich, Machine Composition


Malevich, Suprematist Composition

What kind of sound is suggested by this composition vs. the previous comp?