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


  1. At first a restful scene but has underlying restless mood, (maybe nodded to in the violet shades in the palm tree trunk), like a warm breeze on a deserted island. How about a video posting showing an actual painting, as if teaching, with or without audio. Need all the help I can get. Also appreciate the listed painting tips. Now, back to that blank canvas of mine..
    J. in Alabama
    Janna in Alabama

  2. Hi, Janna. Thanks for your comment. You can find more of my work, and some more tips at http://joannsanbordaily.com. Haven't done any video yet--need to get more compulter literate first!