Basing Composition - Introduction

by Roman aka jar

Hello Miniature Painters,

last week you voted for the next article up to your jungle and MV's year of the painter answers.
"Basing" won the vote you did and I am sitting down with too many photos now and some cup of coffees ahead.

We already got a bunch of articles about basing in the jungle library, but honestly most of them show you information about material you can use and how you can use it. So this topic is a step ahead. It talks about composition. It talks about how you can achieve a harmonic look on your base instead of only one stone and a tree glued to your base. It will give you direction where to place that stone and the tree. At least this is my plan by writing this up and spenting some time and brain in front of this article.

I had the idea while cleaning up my workspace where I found the usual stuff that has to be cleaned up. Random stuff. Some small figures from Flames of War, some colour pots, some Milliput rests and so on. I mean just look what I am talking about on the following photo and see that everybody is able to grab some stuff like that for his own Miniature Basing training:

Now I thought about using the same material all the time for different compositions. Testing around. Explaining things with my thoughts here and there. I will do this in several different "Takes" to keep it structured. Enjoy!

Take #0
Ok, seriously this take is just for getting warm. What do I have here?
Ah ok, a rat in a wheel ...

Composition thoughts: The circle form focuses on the figure. The figure stands at a place where it gives the circle maximum balance as its weight is pressing the circle to the ground. Easy to understand I hope?


Take #1
Let's get it on more serious now you got the way a "Take" works ...

Take #1.1
A lonesome soldier on a plain battlefield, close to a big statue.

Composition thoughts: Nothing to fency here with composition, but a little contrast in size. Big to small. Statue to Soldier.

Take #1.2

Oh, statue fell of due the bombs that fell last night, some more detail added ...

Composition thoughts: Again, contrast big/small. Toothpicks bring in lines that guide the eye to the area where the soldier is located.

Take #1.3
Reinforcements arrived ...

Composition thoughts: Still the same like in the take before but the scene gets bigger. More storytelling. The little Milliput piece to the right gives a frame to the scene.

Take #1.4
More environment to the scene added ...

Composition thoughts: Well, basicly the same as before, but with additional lines that guide the eye also in a vertical way to the location where the action is on ...

Take #1.5
Changing the subject. "Look up here, there's a goat!" ...

Composition thoughts: Still the same as before but with total different subject. The soldier raising his hand to show his comrades the goat is also drawing an invicible line up to the goat and gives to the so far used vertical lines more attention ...

Take #1.6
Where have all my friends gone and the goat? Am I all alone here?? Scary ...

Composition thoughts: Bottles on the back give the scene more weight to the right, makes the lonely guy look even more lost. Lonely soldier is focused by lines drawn by the toothpicks.

Take #1.7
Now comes the interesting part what basing is about mainly. Choosing the cutaway you want to show.

Composition thoughts: Same as before, but with much more focus on the subject. The eyes don't have much space to search around, they get forced to focus more on the scene.

Well, I hope this was understandable so far. For me this article is a test too. Never did something like that before but I got future plans with you all about this topic. So I am really interested in if you understand what I am telling/explaining you in those "Takes" ... let's try another take, eh?


Take #2

Take #2.1
Simple, playing around with some heavy big pieces and some lines again.

Composition thoughts: The two standing bottles make a vertical frame to the scene. A one with weight. The rest of the situation plays in vertical weight, but the small pieces, mainly the toothpicks show direction lines again.

Take #2.2
Changing it a little bit ...

Composition thoughts: Vertical frame has been reinforced to some kind of wall, really heavy in the back. In this example the details are placed to the right and if you are used to read your books or stuff in the internet from left to right, you might recognize that this even happens while "reading a base", eh?

Take #2.3
Small changes, doing the cutaway and bringing in the miniature subject ...

Composition thoughts:
Well, contrast between big and small, lines again that focus to the two comrades. You might now realize that some things are repeated often, eh?

Take #2.4

Earthquake!!! All is destroyed and the statue is visible in the debris...

Composition thoughts:
Well, more vertical lines appeared, again the lonely soldier sorrounded by heavy stuff, increases the dramatic story. The fallen statue shows the drama of the "Fall of Normality" even more.

Still with me? 
Take 2 is now over too and I hope you are still having fun reading and watching. This article is definatly not one to read like a comic. Those of you who follow me here and think with me, will learn the most I guess. Thank you for your patience and let's roll on ...


Take #3

Take #3.1
Two soldiers having a chat about life and girls ...

Composition thoughts:
Heavy stuff on the ground, horizontal weight, subject of our two sitting comrades again focused due the contrast of light/heavy. The toothpick that supports the construction the front brings in a vertical line that is light and gives the feeling that this one keeps all in balance. Very interesting for the human brain, let's focus there ...

Adding more detail and doing the cutaway works well here too ...

Take #3.2
Attack!! This take will show you different situation build from the setup. Now no explanations in this round. It is you now who has to think and see things we already talked about ... Attack!

I hope no one is removing the toothstick or we are all about to die!!

nice weather, eh?

Wait! I hear something?

Bad weather ...

Ahh, my leg is stuck ...

Again, fellas! I hear something!

Quiet!! I have no idea where that big guy hides!!

Nice weather, but where are they going??


Take #4

Take #4.1
Totally different now ...

Composition thoughts:
Heavy horizontal weight, but heavy and light lines guide the eye to read from the upper left corner to the right corner of the picture. Where would you place your figure here?

Take #4.2
Let's change it again ...

Composition thoughts:
I don't tell you anything here. You can do it by your own now!

Take #5

Take #5.1
Changing the scene to a bigger scene. More like a diorama, but why are those two guys sitting there while the others fight for their lifes?

Composition thoughts:
You can see a little "U-Shape" to the whole scene. Focus goes to the guy leaning at the wall in the middle and front. All lines are pointing there.

 Cut away ...
 Even more cinematic now ...
 Even more when we change the angle of the viewers eyes ...
 Look who is that guy! Take care squad!!

Ok, I can hear the enemy, stay put, fellas!
 Ok, without the two sitting comrades ...

Take #6

Let's say this is the last one here: A lonely soldier, who was able to flee from a dangerous place inside a mountain cave or so ...

Composition thoughts:
All drawn lines by the material lead to the entrance and focus there. The plain, empty area where the soldier is located makes him stand out.

Cutaway and little angle change and it is getting even more dramatic.

Final thoughts
This is by far just an introduction in the wisdom that can be found when it comes to the big topic of composition and I am learning a lot myself all the time. This work on those little "Takes" really gave me a lot of joy and believe me when I say that I learned from it too.

I hope you enjoyed the different approach on this basing article and if you are still with me by reading my blabla I am sure you already learned something. If you can not point a finger on it yet, then let's say you can feel it! And that is by far the best start to learn from. Keep your eyes open, not only on your workbench, do it too when you are outside. Things like that even happen in real-life-sized-bases.

Now grab some stuff of your own and do some of these tests. Don't worry to much, learn to feel what harmony means to you on your bases!

Please let me know what you think and if this article helps you!
Your oppinion really means something to me as I can learn from it too!

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