Dan got me thinking about how I work. My art is a lot simpler. I've done some pieces that have foregrounds and backgrounds but a lot of times my characters are all in the foreground. What I work a lot with is shapes. I know this sounds weird but in my head there are invisible shapes that i uses to help move your eye from point A to point B.
Take my cover of POP! for example. I deliberately use certain colors to move your eye around the page. Here I use maroon. I had a triangle in mind -- The boy's bowtie at the bottom, the other bowtie, and the stripe on the right. The triangle "lifts" the bubble. When you look at the cover I want your eye to bounce from the two characters in the middle -- their eyes, then using the "triangle" bounce back and fourth, and then go to the bubble. Well, that's sort of the theory anyway. The other maroon colors and dark blues and bright whites of the eyes and the pink bubbles are spread throughout to balance the picture to sort of "hold" the bubble in place. Your eye will bounce back and forth but keep going to the center. I use this technique to turn something seemingly chaotic into something even, smooth, and ultimately what I hope is a good composition! I also use the light blue around the big pink bubble to give your eye a place to rest. There's so much going on that an area of negative space is always important.
Here's another example:
Here I use the triangle effect again. There are 4 people in this image but the first person I want you to look at is Walter. You do because he is making an opposite triangle with his arms. There is also a triangle followed by his eyes connected to the other dancers' eyes. His eyes are the biggest so you look at him first. His also in the foreground and you can follow the perspective line as it goes back...
What Dan says is true. I'm not sitting around thinking about these things all the time. Sometimes I do. I usually think about it when something isn't working. I remember repainting the above page a lot. The dancers' arms were moved around a lot, the perspective was changed, and Walter's arms were pointed up. You know when something doesn't work but you don't always know why it does until you sit down and think about it. All of this is practice, practice, practice!
Here are some simpler examples:
Here I want your eye to move from left to right, to move your eye to go to the next page turn. This is simple! Just follow the big round white eyes and leave plenty of negative space above and below. You will also notice that the white coats mirror the white door. This further pulls your eye further. You want to follow those figures into the mysterious door.
And here's this one. I left plenty of negative space behind each figure to give the piece tension. Each big eye is connected... and each hand is as well. You know they are about to hand each other something, but it hasn't happened yet, so the negative space adds more tension. Each part is equal and balanced, which helps balance the composition and helps make it pleasing to look at.
You may also notice that negative space is also very important to me. What you don't put in a picture is as important as what you do. This is why I really appreciate the designers I work with. They don't go overboard with the type and help leave those negative spaces negative and don't fill them up with big, bold colored type. I look at some books and cringe. I just can't believe how beautiful art can be ruined. It's all about balance! Your eye needs to a place to REST.
So that's more over analysis of my art. I hope you've enjoyed it.