7 Ways to Get Your Compositions Right the First Time

19 Feb 2013

Here are 7 basic considerations to take into account when designing your composition for a drawing or painting, all having to do somewhat with the importance of shapes.

1.    Be aware of static shapes; for example, the completely dark, opened doorway or window into a building can create static shapes that immediately become "visual traps." Varying the static shapes with graduated tones, can add interest and take away the static hole created

2.    Dividing a composition that has too many equal shapes, horizontally or vertically, can lead to a static composition as well. Be alert for horizontal or vertical lines that unintentionally slice a painting in half or break it up into equal shapes.

Storm at Sea by Robert Reynolds.
Storm at Sea by Robert Reynolds.

3.    Be alert that placing interesting shapes or elements on the edge of your composition could steal interest from the center of interest in your composition.

4.    When learning how to paint strong compositions, be aware that creating perfectly shaped triangles in the corners of your composition can draw the viewer's attention away from the center of interest. If triangles are unavoidable, soften the edges or stagger the forms. 

5.    Dividing your design into too many similar shapes is apt to produce an uninteresting composition. Likewise, be sure that the negative spaces between shapes are not all the same width or height. There is a case to be made that the occasional repeated shapes in a composition will also hold it together. For every rule, there is always an exception.

Long Shadows / Irish Hills by Robert Reynolds.
Long Shadows / Irish Hills by Robert Reynolds.
6.     Unless it is your intention, be careful not to include so many tension-creating shapes that the composition becomes busy or irritating.     

7.    Yours truly, learned the hard way, regarding all the problem areas of designed compositions. Being a professor of art for a good many years, provided me the experience of reviewing thousands of painting compositions. From that experience, the abstract components of a painting became a very important consideration. I have always stated, that a representational painting is only as strong as its abstract components, so when you are evaluating your works be sure to look at your compositions with an "abstract" eye.                    

--Am I perfect at following all these guidelines? Not by long shot, but learning never stops, so enjoy the process.



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Izzyboo wrote
on 23 Feb 2013 5:07 PM

These 7 points were extremely helpful, thank you for sharing. Barb.