• Cindy Revell

Artsnip 5 - Composition

Whether an artist paints plein air, still life, portraits from life or works from a photo a poor composition can degrade an otherwise good painting. Composition is both simple and complex at the same time but one simple thing can improve your art.

And that thing is ………….. drumroll………… VARIATION.


- vary the amounts of space around and between your subject matter/s.

- vary the background (sky, backdrop in a portrait or still life), mid-ground and foreground, each of them should take up a different amount of space on the canvas.

- vary the heights and sizes of things like rows of trees, even if you have a copse of trees that are the same height, which often happens with aspens, vary the heights a bit.

- variation of shapes and direction, do not make all objects exactly the same shape, nor perfectly straight.

- vary the texture

- vary the colour and values (large, medium and small areas of dark, medium and light)

The trick is to apply variation without creating a fragmented and spotty painting.

The painting, above, Sunset on Cortes, Hollyhock by Robert Genn, is a great example of the use of variety. No rock is exactly the same, the divisions of space for the sky, mid-ground and fore-ground are all different, the tree shapes are different shapes, the island itself is two-toned as it goes from a bluish colour to reddish and note the subtle colour shifts in the rocks. What a great painting by the late wonderful Genn!

There is more to this list but you get the idea. There are a lot of rules and ‘don’ts’ in composition and many of you know how I like breaking rules but applying variation is a definite 'do' that will improve your paintings.

Happy painting!


© 2018 by Cindy Revell. All rights reserved