Taking lessons from visual art

I’ve been dabbling in sketching lately. And even though I know I will get farther by putting in time actually drawing rather than reading about it, I can’t avoid picking up a how-to book from time to time.

This week it was a $6 second hand copy of Lessons in Pictorial Composition by Louis Wolchonok from Bucknucks Books in Qualicum Beach.

Scanning the first chapter on the way home, I came across this:

“Every composition expresses some degree of tension. This element adds a dynamic quality, which gives added life to a picture. I have divided tension into six type of opposition. <>
It must be understood that most  paintings are not limited to one type of tension. Generally speaking the greater the number of forces working in opposition in a pictorial composition, the great its dynamic quality.”


Wolchonok lists the tensions as:

  1. Opposition of weights
  2. Opposition of direction
  3. Opposition of shapes
  4. Opposition of values
  5. Opposition of moods
  6. Opposition of colour

It seems that I only have to substitute the word ‘story’ or ‘writing’ for ‘picture’ or ‘painting’, and I can find a parallel in writing – whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I am going to have to spend a little time determining which story elements might equate with ‘weights’, ‘direction’ and ‘shapes’ in his theory, but values and moods easily find an equivalent – in my mind – in my work. And Wolchonok’s approach to creating tension in any piece of work is a good reminder of what drives story and helps a piece of work resonate with the reader.



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