Chapter 1: The Metaphor of Using Graphics Applications

1.3 Exercise 3: Creating a dynamic composition

The Poet, 1911, Egon Schiele, oil on canvas.
The Poet, 1911, Egon Schiele, oil on canvas.

Compositions can be static or dynamic. In this exercise, we will recreate the dynamic movement found within a painting. Dynamic compositions are full of energy or movement. Angles are used to create motion. While a flat horizon line is at rest, a triangle is in motion. The repetition of even spacing is easy on the eye, as our minds predict the simple rhythm of an evenly spaced grid. Angles and uneven spacing between objects causes our eyes to move back and forth. This physical movement translates into the perception of movement within a composition. Use the Schiele painting as the guideline for your dynamic composition with rectangles. The final composition could be like this image, if yours is based on the Schiele painting:

An example of a completed exercise image
Example of a completed image. Use your own color palette!
  1. In Illustrator®, click on the Rectangle tool from the Tools panel. Click and drag to draw a rectangle on the page.
  2. Once the rectangle is created, release the mouse and click on the Selection tool. Objects can only be modified when they are selected. The Selection tool is used to select an object in order to move, scale, or copy it. Click on the rectangle with the Selection tool. Notice that the selected rectangle has square anchor points on each corner and at the midpoint of each line. These anchor points are essential components of the vector art. They determine the contours of the shape by their position in relationship to each other. A rectangle is described by a path that turns at right angles through four anchor points to create four sides and meet itself to close the shape. To deselect the object, click on the Artboard in any area outside of the rectangle.
    Notice that a tool tip shows up when the mouse hovers over a tool. The tool tip displays the name of the tool and the keyboard shortcut. This is true in most graphics applications.
  3. With the rectangle selected, notice how the shape is made. The rectangle is an area filled with color and there may or may not be a line surrounding the edges. The interior color is called the fill. The outline is called the stroke. White and black are the default color settings for fill and stroke.
  4. Look at the bottom of the Tools panel and notice what color is loaded in the Fill icon and what color is loaded into the Stroke icon. The Fill and Stroke icons stack with the active target on the top. To change the fill, it needs to be the top icon.
    The fill and stroke tool
    The fill and stroke tool are located at the bottom of the Tools panel
  5. While the rectangle is still selected, click once on the fill icon to reposition it on top of the stroke.
  6. Click on the Swatches panel, then click on any color. It is assigned to the fill area of the rectangle and it also appears as the color in the fill icon. The rectangle will change because it was selected before a new color was applied.
    Close up of the Color Panel
    Close up of the Workspace and the Color Panel
  7. Click on the Stroke icon to position it on top of fill.
    Stroke icon
    Click on Stroke Icon then click on the “None” icon.
  8. Click on the “None” icon. This symbol, beneath the fill and stroke icons, is a white square with a red diagonal line. Clicking this will remove the stroke from the rectangle.
  9. With the Selection tool, scale or rotate the rectangle. Scale the rectangle by clicking on an anchor point and dragging toward or away from its center.
    Selection tool
    Using the Selection tool by clicking on an anchor point

    To rotate the rectangle, position the Selection tool just outside one of the four anchor points at the corners. Don’t click yet. Notice that the cursor changes from the usual Selection tool icon (straight, black arrow) to a curved arrow. The curved arrow indicates that you can rotate the selection. When you see the curved arrow, click and drag outside of the rectangle to the right or left in order to rotate the rectangle.

    Example of using the Rotate tool
    Shapes can also be rotated via the Object > Transform > Rotate menu or with the Rotate Tool in the Tools panel.
  10. When the first rectangle is complete (with the color, scale, and rotation of your choosing), deselect the rectangle by clicking on the Artboard. Notice that the anchor points are no longer highlighted.
  11. Use the Rectangle tool to begin the process again. Once a rectangle is made and modified, use the Selection tool to reposition it to the right, left, or on top of the other rectangle. Recreate the composition with up to 15 shapes. You should feel comfortable creating a shape and changing its fill and stroke colors.
  12. Arrange the rectangles so that they can be seen as one dynamic composition. Notice that as you create and position each rectangle, they appear stacked on top of each other. While you are creating this composition you may want a rectangle to be “sent behind” another rectangle. Select the top rectangle with the Selection tool, then click Object > Arrange > Send Backward.
    example 1 selection of a rectangle
    Positioning the rectangles to create one image
    Example 2 Using the Send Backward command
    Sending the selection backward (behind) other rectangles
    The final image
    The image after Send Backward performed
  13. Shapes such as your rectangles can be sent backward repeatedly, or brought forward. Find these commands in Object > Arrange. Any art object can be positioned using these menu items. Finally, while art objects are sent backward or brought forward one at a time (through as many levels of stacking order as there are objects), they can also be sent all the way to the back of the composition or brought all the way to the front of the composition using Object > Arrange.In this image, a large black rectangle was sent all the way to the back of the composition after most of the dynamic composition was already made.
    Creating a black background
    Creating a black background
    Using Send Back command
    Sending the black background to the back
    Finished image with black background
    The black background is now all the way to the back, behind all other rectangles.

    Be sure to save your files!


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