The Composition #3

“The elements of composition embrace the whole creative process.”

The Art of the Artist – Composition – by Fletcher Martin

Composite #3 CJM 5 x 7

Composite #3 CJM 5 x 7


Simplification of the subject can be a helpful tool in communicating through painting.   What does it mean to “simplify”?  A definition from Webster’s:

  • SIMPLIFY – “to reduce to basic essentials ; to diminish in scope or complexity”

Tip!  Squint your eyes

Tip!  Think shapes

Tip! Create a small sketch first

Tip! Trust your gut and have fun

As simple as this may sound, simplifying your subject can take a lot of practice and often isn’t that simple.  When approaching painting it’s easy to think that adding all the detail will help describe the subject.  However, what often happens is that too much detail breaks the unity of a composition and creates confusion for the viewer.  There’s a lot to be said for “less is more”.

Squinting your eyes while looking at your subject is a technique that can help you identify the main shapes.  In doing this your eyes “reduce to basic essentials” and “diminish complexity”.  This is particularly helpful with landscape painting, but also works with still life and figure painting.

The more you can think in terms of shape and detach from what you “know” the subject to be the better.  This takes practice!

Preparing a small rough sketch before to experiment with your compositional ideas is very helpful.  You also gain further understanding of the subject which always aids in the creative expression.

***There’s a great little tool called a “View Finder” by Color Wheel.   You adjust the slide to your canvas size and use that view to help define your composition. You can also trace the window opening onto your sketch pad and explore compositional ideas in a space that is in direct proportion to your canvas.

View Catcher


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