Composing an Aquascape
One of the most difficult parts about creating an aquascape is knowing where or how to start. You have your materials ready, and it’s time to get to work but…what now? Here are some great methods to composing an aquascape that will help you create an aesthetically pleasing, personal work of art, right off the bat! For some inspiration it sometimes helps to look at easily accessible hardscape materials. Many forms of rock and wood are easily obtained, Dragon Stone, Seiryu stone, Elephant Skin Stone are popular rock options. Weathered driftwood, Spider Wood and Black Spider Wood are excellent would options.
The Rule of Thirds (ROT)
The rule of thirds is a guideline that applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, photographs, and in our case aquascapes. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.
The ROT is applied to aquascaping by aligning a point of interest with the guidelines and their intersecting points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the layout to flow from section to section. The main reason for observing the ROT is to discourage placement of focal points at the center or to prevent a horizon from appearing to divide the layout in half.
The Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio describes the perfectly symmetrical relationship between two proportions. Approximately equal to a 1:1.61 ratio, the Golden Ratio can be illustrated using a Golden Rectangle: a large rectangle consisting of a square (with sides equal in length to the shortest length of the rectangle) and a smaller rectangle.
Later known as the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. The simplest is the series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. Artists recognized that the Fibonacci Spiral is an expression of an aesthetically pleasing principle. This is used in the composition of a layout balancing the features of the image by thirds, rather than strictly centering them achieves a more pleasing flow to the picture.
Another way to compose a layout is to use specific composition styles. These styles include triangular, convex, and concave.
The triangle is a compositional element that has been used in visual art throughout history and can be used as a guideline in creating depth in your layout or purely as a shape to follow.
Taking elements from the foundational triangle, the convex composition is in its basic form an upward facing triangle. With the top point usually residing towards the center of the layout (not always and not a rule), resulting in a “mound” type shape. The convex composition can also be used as a guideline to creating depth identical to the triangular composition.
Using triangles just as the previous composition styles, the concave composition in its basic form, a downward facing triangle. Using the rule of thirds along with this composition style will help offset the focal point and to keep the layout from being too symmetrical.
Creating Depth and Forced Perspective
Ever looked at an aquascape and thought to yourself “How do they make such a small space seem so vast?” Some of them even look to be miles
long! Here are some techniques in creating simple depth all the way to forced perspectives.
(Top to bottom: The Aquascaper’s Collective, Cory Hopkins, Hiep Hong, Art Commisso, Bryan Tabares, and Shawn McBride; Aquascape by Shawn McBride, Aquascape by Cory Hopkins)