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Sunday, May 03, 2015

My Tip for Seeing Composition in Nature

'Bluebonnet Spring Study'               5x7               pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $50
 It is a rare occurrence. When every element in a landscape is arranged in the most perfect and compelling composition.  All that is needed is to copy what is before us. That would be too easy. What happens when things are not perfectly composed? If we copy them as they are we end up with a painting that could be better.

My goal is to interpret the landscapes I paint. It is always something on my mind when starting a new painting. I know that I have to take things out, put things in and even move things around to have the best design. But how? 

Seeing potential compositions is part intuition and part study and part practice. I knew nothing at all about composition when I started painting. I made it a point to study and read about what makes good designs. It has taken many many paintings for this knowledge to become more intuitive. In addition we all have a sense of 'rightness' about design....what looks and feels right to us. I began to trust this sense and not freeze when it came to making changes to the design of my paintings.

How do you know if you have a good composition? Test your ideas with small studies. 

The study board I made for a recent demo painting
It is a lot easier to try out potential compositions on a small and simple scale. I like to do very simple black and white thumbnail sketches using just four values. I look for the big simple shapes in my scene. I decide what is the darkest and lightest shapes and what shapes are middle value. It is easy to see the underlying abstract design in the thumbnail.  I can move shapes around or add and subtract before I even pick up a pastel.  It really works!

'Bluebonnet Spring'           11x14             pastel      $150
TRY THIS: Do you feel you need help seeing good compositions in nature? Take a break from painting this week and focus on design. Start a thumbnail sketchbook and do as many black and white simple thumbnails as you can. You can work from photos or from life. Make doing thumbnails a habit. You will start to see good compositions with thought and practice.

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Another great lesson! This is what I can fall back on if something isn't working, just slow down and do all the preliminaries to be sure I have a good design at the start. Love today's paintings, both of them!