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Looking through the artist's eye

The local library has always been a place to go and relax, read the paper or a magazine, browse through the stacks and pick out a book to take home.

With the advent of modern technology, it has also become a place to surf the Internet, check out a DVD or book-on-CD, or more recently, find an e-book to load onto your electronic reading device.

Increasingly, however, the library has also become a place where people can take classes on genealogy and art, engage in a lively book discussion or enjoy a variety of free entertainment.

This past Saturday, Detroit Lakes artist Joann Knapp provided a free seminar on artistic composition called "Through the Artist's Eye."

Knapp, whose work is on display at the library this month, has traveled extensively throughout the world and worked with a variety of artistic media including painting, sketching, collage, photography and block printing as well as sculpture.

She showed those attending Saturday's class a series of artistic journals that she had kept during her travels.

"Some people write (in their journals), I sketch," Knapp said.

Often, she would go back and paint in the colors on her sketches; in one instance, however, she noted that her sketches were left in black and white because her paints had been stolen.

Knapp also included photographs of some of the scenes she had sketched through the years, stating that her husband had taken the photos -- often while she was sketching, or afterwards.

Knapp said that composition includes a variety of factors, from size and shape to color and perspective.

"It includes how you divide the space... what you put in, and what you leave out," she added.

One guideline for artists in composing their work is "no kissing," Knapp said.

No, that doesn't mean you can't compose a painting or a photograph that features two people locking lips; rather, it refers to the fact that the elements in your artwork should not be touching each other, or "kissing."

Also, when creating the focal point, or center of interest, the artist shouldn't simply place it in the center of the canvas.

The artwork becomes more interesting when the focal point is off center, Knapp noted.

A good way to define the focal point is by using the "rule of thirds" -- i.e., divide the paper or canvas into equal thirds, both horizontally and vertically, by drawing two lines from top to bottom, and two lines from side to side.

Placing the center of interest at one of the four points of intersection between the lines will create a more interesting perspective, she noted.

Another rule to consider, Knapp said, is the "rule of odds" -- having an odd number of elements in your artwork instead of an even number.

"Try to look at all four corners (of the painting or sketch), and make each corner different," Knapp added.

When considering the size of the elements in the painting, she said, "you should have a papa bear (large) object, a mama bear (slightly smaller), a baby bear and lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren," she said, using a phrase that had been taught to her by one of her instructors.

Also, Knapp added, "You can have more than one 'mama bear.'"

Finally, she said, "To unify your painting, it's nice to have some repetition," whether it's in the color, size or shape of the elements used.

These same techniques can be applied to other art forms as well. "Whether you're taking a photograph or painting, the principles are the same," said Knapp.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454