... I started out as an animator, and when I transitioned into story, I struggled with everything, especially things like layout that aren't always part of an animator's job. I'm not sure where I learned this concept; probably my layout teachers in school covered it but I never listened to them because, after all, I was going to be an animator. And I'm an idiot.
So as I struggled with doing storyboards years later, I was looking at the work of artists I admire and trying to figure out a way to teach myself how to do layout. At some point I realized that I just needed an approach: some way of organizing the visual information that layout required…some way to get a "handle" on how to approach layout.
Then it hit me: you could arrange layouts into three levels: Foreground, Middle ground and Background, and that gave you three manageable levels to deal with instead of trying to somehow draw the infinite depth of space that exists in the real world. ...
When I was a kid, I used to watch my father paint watercolors in his studio and out in the field. They always looked pretty neat to me, but I was ten years old and didn't exactly know why.
I guess what sucked me in was the style and composition. Like this:
And then when I got older I discovered John Ford features. And the thing about Ford was (and still is), that along with being adept with actors, he composed hell out of his shots. For the most part, you're not consciously aware of it (mostly), but his gift is always there, always in use. This clip is a short course in composition all by itself.
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
When a story artist, layout artist, painter or movie director is good with foregrounds, backgrounds and middle distances, their art becomes that much more compelling. And even people like me, who can't draw a lick, are attracted to it.