Creating Mood with Composition

I was asked earlier this week how to set the curvature of the ground plane for an image and I was somewhat dumbfounded as I had never thought about drawing that technically isolated before. Specifically the asker wanted to picture a character sitting by a tree on a hill. I tried out a few quick compositions within an hour to try and narrow down how I thought about composing: For me, there's usually a motive behind drawing an image- most often mood, other times setting a narrative moment or showcasing interactivity with the environment. In this case, I interpreted the idea as relatively melancholy and/ or pensive and thought about how I would showcase that isolation. Since I was sticking to the basics, that resulted me in relying pretty heavily on character pose and positioning. Mirroring the character's isolation with the single tree presented a stronger front while a smaller size came off far more vulnerable and alone than a close up. Comfortingly, art is pretty flexible so you can get the same mood from all different kinds of compositions depending on the subtlety you want to portray.

Study references- whether they be photographs or illustrations you admire (the latter will most often be easier as they've already been exaggerated and interpreted). What makes them successful? Try and dissect what mood they express and why? Color will play a big part, but there's also the framing, perspective, shape language of elements in the scene, body language and juxtaposition of the figure (if there is one) against other characters and against the scene they're in.

Take these images, for instance (I used Mushishi as an example bc I love it):

Despite similar color palettes, they give off distinctly different moods. In the left image, the viewer is in a voyeuristic position, looking down + watching the character whose back is turned from a distance. Although there is light streaming in, the sensation is still cold and the framing of the foreground branches give a sense of cover for the viewer while the character is exposed. As opposed to the right image where the character is boldly in the open + in stark contrast with the surroundings; there's more direct confrontation and equal footing. The greens are also much more warm and welcoming with the branches of the trees fading off into soft light giving off a more magical yet nostalgic sensation.

Although context of the story will heavily bias the feeling given off by an image, the composition is integral in helping set it.