About 3 ½ years ago, I created and
set up a lesson plan to improve my design and composition skills. I have
plugged away at it almost every day since, except when I was so sick that I
couldn’t. Since I caught covid in 2020, I have been ill in bed for over seven
months with various respiratory ills, because covid damaged my immune system.
The past few days, I have looked at old composition exercises from four years ago (before I caught covid the first time) and compared them to more recent ones. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I have improved.
Before actually looking at them, I had the mindset that because of covid, I could not see values well – and this is somewhat true – and that my composition skill had also declined. I now see that perhaps my comp skill declined when I was so ill, but that it now is better than ever! I am so surprised. My values still suck, BTW.
This is not to say that my composition skills are wonderful, only that they have improved compared to 10 years ago due to the structured plan and all the hours (3000 or so over 3 ½ years) put in. The same design elements used for critiques were what I used to design.
I have previously posted my design and composition structure here before, where it met with a lukewarm response. This is fine with me. Either most here are good natural composers or this is not an important skill set. Or my OCD approach is not everyone’s cup of tea.
A few points:
One can have a belief that one isn’t making progress when one actually has been – slowly and incrementally perhaps. This is where keeping good records to review can be helpful. My composition and design skills have been mediocre over my life at best. They are now improved! I think for me the reason why I improved were: deciding on the goal; designed a structured approach to the improvement; putting in the hours; keeping records and evidence of the efforts; examining the actual results instead of just the belief that I was not improving.
If you are having trouble with some aspect of your painting, step away from the easel and palette, and define the problem, define a tentative solution, create a plan to improve, execute the plan, etc. This is Mr. Carder’s approach and it works: lighting; studio wall color and value; thickness of paint; how to match color and value. He thinks like an engineer. I think he is naturally good at composition, and doesn’t have much to say on the subject. Note that on this forum, design and composition is not one of the categories of discussion.
Getting a fresh perspective from someone else is very valuable. I find live in-person critiques the best. But that is how I caught covid again 3 months ago (and have had a fever ever since. This is really getting old…). Online comments on this forum are really good, but not as easy as live because the discussion via written posts takes a long time.
Here are the aspects of design and composition which I used below. Please feel free to use, modify, or ignore. If you have other design elements, please share them with the group.
Armature: Central focal points and overall flow:
Contrast and edges:
Warm and cool:
Additions and Changes: