it'd always been an idea of mine to include some discussion of technique on this blog since it's relevant and i get questions via email on occasion. so, in response to the anonymous reply on my last entry i thought i'd talk a little about composition, or the part of creating artwork that deals with the arranging of shapes on the page.
as with most of the formal things you might learn in art school, composition is one of the things my mentor stressed was important to learn so that you can forget. what this means is that while there are lots of basic tried-and-true guidelines in composition, those guidelines can become snares if you are rigidly attached to them. so, it is important to learn the basic lay of the compositional land and then throw away the map, so to speak.
so to answer the question posed directly, in composing the plein air piece i did not make a conscious effort to adhere to any rule of threes. while i'm not familiar with it as such, the goal of threes in compositions tends to be in establishing a triangle within the image: each point or object becomes one corner of it. from there, different moods can be expressed depending on the type of triangle you create and its placement: a centralized, equilateral triangle would express solidity and balance, and then varieties of irregular triangles will establish other feelings.
the main thing that influenced the plein air composition was simply walking along that path the week before, scouting out painting locations. i stopped at that very point and the scene just struck me. there was a little editing involved: a few bushes and distant trees that were dirtying up the hillside a bit in the distance, knowing the sun's path and being able to predict how the shadows would fall at evening, and then moving a little forward or backward so that the cypresses on the right didn't tangent exactly with the hill line behind them. in retrospect i should've pushed that last aspect a bit more. the cypresses themselves naturally lend themselves to an attractive composition, particularly the broken one at the left--had it been whole it would've choked off the left side of the piece entirely.
so lastly, as an example of the main point of sub-conscious internatlizing: i didn't mentally tell myself any of the above, i simply did it so that it felt right. it required me sitting down and thinking about it to describe the process. perhaps next time i do this i'll address the other question of photos translating to paintings and vice