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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Robert Meyers: Master Composer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Your might enjoy seeing an illustration of a beautiful woman or a race car or a puppy - but your brain probably won't tell your eyes to linger over an image for very long unless there is an underlying construct to the piece that it finds appealing on a more abstract level. This abstract construct is all about composition and picture design... and it doesn't just happen by accident. The thoughtful artist designs his picture very deliberately to keep your brain interested in looking at it... and Robert Meyers was clearly a very thoughtful artist.


The Famous Artists Course chapter on composition and picture design tells us, "most well-composed pictures attract attention to one carefully chosen point, which we call the "center of interest". This may be a single major form, or it may include a group of forms. The center of interest is the point to which we want the observer's eye to travel immediately. Therefore we will try to make it as interesting and clear as we can. In this area we will probably have the greatest contrasts in values and edges, the most texture, the sharpest detail. The design of the whole composition will be planned to take the eye directly to this spot and hold it there."


"After the observer has seen the major object or area that is being emphasized, his eye may wander away and enjoy surrounding or minor areas; but these will be handled in such a way that they return his eye eventually to the major idea which conveys the chief message of the painting."


"When you study the center of interest and the surrounding material... you will notice that certain shapes and rhythms appear prominently. For example, the major form you have chosen as the area of interest may suggest a cube or a cone, a sphere or a cylinder. Your picture will have greater unity if you find ways to repeat this idea, with minor variations, in the surrounding composition. It will help make this idea stronger if you also select a shape for emphasis which is a strong contrast with the major shape."


"For example, if the major shape is made of flowing curves, these curves will be emphasized by placing them against rigid verticals and horizontals. The curved forms in the major shape will be strengthened still more if you include related curves in other areas of the picture. Unity is gained by repeating ideas; variety is gained through varying these ideas or by setting them against strong contrasting ideas."

I hope you'll take a little time to examine these three pieces by Robert Meyers and see how he applied the principles described above to create such successful illustrations. They are, in my opinion, textbook perfect examples of top notch composition and picture design.

Need a closer look at the details? Go to my Robert Meyers Flickr set.

1 comment

  1. I have the original top painting you show. Do you know what date that came out in the Saturday evening post. Would love to get a hold of the mag. I also have a lot of Robert Meyers paintings. Love them . Thanks Elizabeth

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