The word composition creates many insecurities in the novice painters mind. Not surprising though, when its definition “Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject” leaves vagaries abound.
Composition is a multi faceted consideration for the artist. I like to describe composition as the composure of an art piece. It is difficult to understand someone who is experiencing an emotional drama, and expressing themselves with a torrent of reactions. So it is also difficult to appreciate a painting if the artist has not considered the way the viewers eye and mind will react to it.
The artist may intentionally create tension in a drawing using all expressive means but the composition must have composure if the viewer is to appreciate it.
There is a lot written on the way artists construct composition but I would suggest the following framework; Always have intention. For example, when drawing a life model, tutors will always talk about the need to consider the shape and size of the paper making the drawing fill the space well. This is sound advice as a learning tool, but the artist may wish to express solitude and abandon and make a small drawing to one side of the paper.
As we know rules are there to be broken. Even if you are not intentionally breaking a rule, it is important to make whatever you do an intentional act. It is the art of giving intention, however much it may break the rules, a purpose and clear outcome. This is the complete opposite of not knowing the rules and not knowing how to break them!!