Rule of Thirds, Summer Silouette Studio Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

Summer Silouette
One composition decision that deserves some discussion is the rule of thirds. It’s a very simplified version of the Golden Ratio. Dividing something into one third, two thirds is very pleasing to our eye, and is an easy way to make sure the compositional balance of your painting will work. This can apply to any painting, but I’ll describe it through the landscape here.

If you are planning to focus on the sky, make sure it has the larger, two thirds portion of the canvas. If your painting will be mostly about the land, make that the two-third portion. Let’s say the land will have the larger portion. Divided that portion into the foreground, middle and background, make sure the one you want to focus on gets almost two thirds of the space.

Carry this rule of thirds out on every decision in your painting. One third above middle gray in value, two-thirds below. One third of the colors cool, and two thirds warm. One third in sunlight, two thirds in shadow. One third complement, two thirds dominant color.

Pushing the ratios even father leads to more interesting composition. Use this information as a tool, not a formula. But if you have a painting that isn't quite working, applying the rule of thirds can sometimes help you towards a solution.


Composition, Out to Sea Studio Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

Beach Music
Out to Sea is the latest in a series of palms on the beach right here on Marco Island. You can see the others in this series on my daily painting blog here. I've enjoyed exploring the shape and color of these and other palms under a variety of light and circumstances. There's probably a few more paintings on this theme in my future!

Today's art lesson is about of composition. Composition means how the various parts of the painting will fit together and is one of the hardest things to teach. Here are some tips for composing the landscape in a way that will be pleasing. Remember that art rules are really good for learning, but in the right circumstances can be broken!

Ten rules for good composition:

1. Choose the orientation of the canvas according to the subject
Vertical - More dynamic
Good for tall subjects, compressed, elongated images
Horizontal - More pastoral
Subject can spread out

2. Keep the horizon line above or below centerline for more interest

3. Look for interesting underlying shapes in your block-out and exploit them.

4. Use a variety of scale.

5. Remember that negative shapes are as important as positive shapes.

6. Leave a way into the picture - don’t put up a wall

7. Repeat Shapes for unity

8. Create a path for the viewer’s eye

9. Watch for and avoid conflicting lines

10. Above all, avoid monotony


On the Trail, Everglades Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

On the Trail
In the studio I've been working on a commissioned piece. On the Trail, today's painting, refers to the Tamiami Trail, a road that goes from Miami to Tampa. Once you get outside the population centers of Fort Meyers and Naples going south the road travels through the Everglades into fairly remote and protected areas. It's not uncommon to see alligators in the canal along the roadside. The road travels through the lush green of the Fakahatchee to the more open prairies of the Big Cypress and Everglades National Park. This scene is in the Fakahatchee, not far from Marco Island. I've painted in this area before, and did a small painting that can be seen on my blog in preparation for this larger commissioned painting.


Limited Palette Basics, Sun Shadows Studio Painting by Jo-Ann Sanborn

Sun Shadows

Using a limited palette is one of the best ways to gain control over your palette. You will become very familiar with each color you choose and are forced to explore the limits of it’s usefulness to get a full range of value and color in your painting.

Your palette will be purer and your colors clearer if your primary colors contain pigments for only one other color. For example, your warm red will contain red and yellow, and your cool red will contain red and blue. Your warm blue will contain blue and yellow, and your cool blue will contain blue and green. Your warm yellow will contain yellow and red, and your cool yellow will contain yellow and blue.

If you add any secondary colors to this basic palette, you will want to make sure that they are the true compliments of the primaries. If they are they will make a lovely, lively neutral color rather than a dead, flat color. Black should be added to the palette with caution, since it is a subtractive color that takes light and color away. It’s almost never a good choice to darken, and best used purely as the color black.

White can lighten, but it also neutralizes your color. Titanium is a heavy, opaque white used for good coverage, while Zinc white is more transparent. Transparent mixing white is a fairly new color that can be used to thin out and extend your color without neutralizing it.

In today's Everglades painting I’ve used a limited palette of Quinacridone Crimson, Cerulean Blue, and Lemon Medium Azo, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine Blue and Naples Yellow and a Hookers Deep Permanent green to help with the darks, and Titanium White.

You can simplify even further by using only three primaries plus white and still have all the range you need. Try it, and you’ll find that you may produce some of your most colorful paintings.