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Development of Graphic Organization & Composition
The organization of pictorial space follows a heightened awareness of the over all space within the drawing page. This organization of space begins with the discovery of the human figure which is first drawn floating on the page without a ground line. In other words, the placement of the early humans on the drawing surface is generally random, the most important concern of the young artist being simply to draw a figure. Therefore, placement can be at the top of the page, or at the bottom and the figure oriented in any direction. Gradually, however, the bottom of the page becomes equivalent with the ground line and the figure is oriented in an upright position in relation to that perceived compositional necessity. If the figure is standing upright, and the earliest figures are, the next step is to position them in relation to the rest of the compositional environment. Where will they stand when a flower is added?

working on compositionsA ground line is the horizontal line that serves to delineate the bottom most area of the page at the earliest stages of composition. As the bottom of any page is perceived by the human eye as being the space or area of the composition that is nearest to the viewer, by drawing a horizontal line from one edge to the other of the page, the child is making a horizon, an area where other visual events can happen that will be seen as near space. This horizontal line is further differentiated by what is placed in contact with it. By choosing to place an upright human figure on it, it becomes a ground line under the feet of the figure and the child may further differentiate it by placing a flower next to the human. The ground line will often emerge before it actually serves to anchor any figures in the composition and may simply float within the flat space with nothing to reference it. It may simply exist as a floating horizontal line serving a decorative function.

As the child becomes more interested in picture making and expands her visual vocabulary to include animals, houses, vehicles, monsters, and landscapes she will seek a visual solution for arranging the various elements of her composition on the page. Because at this stage she has mastered the earliest notions of horizontal and vertical through experimentation with the intersecting lines, or “criss crosses” that appear in her young work as a two and three year old, she can now, as a five and six year old, continue to make more subtle compositions that have pronounced vertical and horizontal orientations. The up right human on the ground line is compositionally the vertical in relation to the horizontal.

“Man Rowing Boat” ink and marking pen, Ethan, age 14, teen class, Berkeley Child Art Studio.