For many of us the first stories we ever heard were about three bears. I'll Papa Bear Mama Bear and a little baby bear. I have no idea why they were bears, but I sure know why they were PAPA, Mama and baby. DOMINANCE.
When we begin a new job what is our first question? How long until I get vacation days? Where are the toilets? No, The first question is who's my Boss. We need to know who's in charge. We need to understand the power structure. We need to know where we fit in. When we do, we become comfortable. This is not some esoteric art idea. This is a fundamental human need. People are comfortable with dominance.
If we applied this concept to painting we can begin to understand why some paintings are coherent and others fall apart. It's not very complicated. Draw the horizon across the middle of a painting and you have divided it into two equal halves. Wishy-washy. Blah. Move that line a little bit, and you have either a dominant sky or a dominant land. Ta Da.. Good composition.
There are 5 (and the only 5) elements of composition.
Line - shape - value - color - texture.
Here's the gist:
A painting with mostly straight lines, one large shape, 1 middle size shape and any number of smaller shapes, more dark shapes than light shapes more blue shapes than orange shapes, more rough shapes than smooth shapes, is a well-composed painting. (Sorry about the long sentence).
At least it's probably a well-composed painting. There is a whole lot more to composition than dominance. Massing (overlapping) shapes for example. Negative (empty) space is important. Yet if you get everything else right and you get dominance wrong you get a bad painting.