Sunday, January 12, 2020

Studying Composition

Studying Richard McKinley's book:  'The Landscape Paintings of Richard McKinley'

Every serious artist that I know spends time looking at other artists' work, studying technique, composition and design and trying new things.   Lately, I've undertaken a study of composition, based on what I've learned from Ian Roberts' book 'Mastering Composition'.  It's one of my all time favorite art instruction books and I keep coming back to it. 

One of Ian's suggestions is to study a piece and do a little composition sketch of what's going on in it.  I've been studying dozens of artists and looking at hundreds of paintings, doing these little sketches of the paintings I like best. 

In the pic above you can see my little sketch of a piece by Richard McKinley in red sharpie on the top left.   This page also happened to give Richard's own working sketches as well. 

As I do this, over and over and over, to paintings that are pleasing to me, I am seeing patterns that help me think about my own work.  Since I am able to abstract a visual pattern, I can then plug in the subjects that I am interested in painting, knowing that the structure under the whole thing is a visually pleasing one.

Here's an example of how I use these.   This is a painting by Geoff Kersey.   My sketch is to the right [red sharpie]. 

painting:  Geoff Kersey

I can take that same basic structure and put my own spin on it, like I did in this practice piece I did for #paintrainforAustralia [Instagram]. 

© Robin Edmundson, 'Paint Rain for Australia',  9 x 12 inches. 

I'm hoping that this intensive study of composition will allow me to really internalize this skill so that it is unconscious. If I'm not worrying about composition, then I can focus on technique or color or subject or something else. 

What new skill have you been studying lately?


  1. And I am very glad you’ve been doing this! Love it!

    1. Hi Cindy! I'm so glad you're following along!

    2. Don't know if you're into photography at all, but a fun way to play with composition is cropping a picture in different ways. You can see how many different ways one photo can be beautifully presented. By altering the proportions, focal point and perspective, the entire mood of the picture can change.


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