Negative Shapes & Silhouette in Composition


By robgale November 15, 2018

N.C. Wyeth uses a variety of sky shapes to help create an interesting composition.

Today I wanted to look at the work of N.C. Wyeth, the early 20th Century Illustrator and how he used negative shapes and silhouette to create the powerful composition above. At top is the original image, with my breakdown below of the shapes that the silhouette makes of the sky . The thing I notice here is the variety and groupings that he’s created in sky shapes. The sky above is broken up by the spears, creating three large simple areas where our eyes can rest. These help to draw our emphasis even more to where the detail and the “action” is happening. Then below he has several little shapes of sky poking through the horses’ legs creating a nice contrast with the large shapes of the sky. In particular, notice that none of the shapes really repeats any other, they are all quite different, either in size, shape or arrangement with nearby shapes. Notice as well that the area with the smallest sky shapes is also where the woman on the horse is looking at the swans, the only character in this scene who is looking in a different direction, indicating that she is the protagonist of the story. 


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