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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cheat Sheet: Compose Better Paintings

'Summer Profusion'                12x12            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
painting available $175
Are you a 'top of the pile' artist?  Do you use the paper that is on the top of your pile or do you give serious thought to the size/color/type of paper you will use for each painting? Taking a few minutes to figure out the best size and orientation of paper for the subject leads to better paintings.  It only takes a few minutes. In the end it saves much time and angst.

 The orientation/ format of the paper can have a profound impact on how well our concept for the painting comes across.  We have four main choices: Landscape (horizontal) Portrait (vertical)  Square and Panoramic.

How do we decide which one will be best for our subject?  The usual recommendation is to do a thumbnail. I take this advice a step further.  I like to do several QUICK thumbnails trying out each format. I have developed a cheat sheet for my planning.  (see photo below)

Usually one thumbnail will speak to me the loudest. This is the one I paint. Often I like all of them for different reasons. These can all be developed into paintings. 

One image = 5 potential paintings!

My Painting Plan Worksheet in action

 Using the planning worksheet saved me a lot of aggravation on my demo painting. My intention was to use a piece of 12x18 Uart in a portrait orientation. I thought it would be a good format to show the country road going back into the woods.  I set up my paper for the demo. 

I decided to use my planning worksheet and discovered that I really preferred a square format for the painting. In the thumbnail the portrait format wasn't working at all....too much foreground!  So I marked off a square on my paper. Taking a few minutes for planning was well worth my effort! (I probably would have ended up fussing with the foreground until finally cropping it off anyway!)

my 12x18 paper turned into a 12x12 square

my reference photo
 I am offering my planning sheet in my Etsy store. It is a 2 page worksheet which also gives you space for a color study and questions to help you decide on your painting concept. Sure you can use a sketchbook or scrap paper....but the planning sheet ensures you don't skip a step!  Click here for details. 


robertsloan2art said...

Wonderful article and I love the painting. Thanks for putting together the worksheet, that's the kind of thing that could really help.

One question about this painting which brims with beautiful greens in a lovely continuum from yellow greens to blue greens by distance. Did you use the Terry Ludwig greens in it? Sometimes it's hard to tell by the photos online how saturated or neutral a green is, sometimes their 90 greens set looks like it's mostly brown and turquoise. I have yet to see it in person but I know you use that brand, so please let me know.

Karen said...

Thanks Robert! I did use only Terry Ludwigs but I used the Marsha Savage Southeast set. I just got the set of 90 and will soon write about them. I haven't had a chance to use them as much as I'd like!