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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > September 19 > Well composed

Well composed

Paul Banning stresses that a painting needs structure, balance and proportion, whatever medium you use, and demonstrates his point with a plein-air watercolour of a coastal scene

Reflecting on my life as a painter, I’ve often thought how fortunate I was to have spent so many years designing furniture and interiors after my initial training in design at art school. It certainly has stood me in good stead in my second career as a painter. Why, you may ask? That’s easy. No matter what medium you use, a painting is a design – whether it’s on paper, canvas, board, or any other material.


For me, there has to be some form of structure to the painting. Yet often when teaching students I find so many just sit down and paint without any thought about composition, tone or colour – all three being the basic principles of a painting. Too often, the end result will be disappointing.

This can easily be avoided by sketching, and using a viewfinder, which helps you to understand the subject you have selected and, usually, to produce a better picture in the end. I remember being told by an experienced and successful painter that ‘the right subject matter is everywhere but what you have to do is find it’. It’s good advice. I spend some time looking for the right subject, walking round and using a viewfinder. As you become more experienced you’ll be able to discover the right subject matter and the position in which to set up and paint it.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our September issue, packed with inspiration, demonstrations and practical advice for all artists, covering all your favourite media. Our artist-contributors show you how to paint sunlight and shadows in watercolour, capture the effects of sparkling light on water in acrylics, create a balanced composition, while Amanda Hyatt shares her top ten tips for painting rivers and lakes in watercolour. There are also demonstrations on how to paint buildings, capture the texture of fur when painting animals, how to create a simple but dramatic linocut and showing why oils are great for developing still-life compositions in the studio. Seasoned exhibitor Nicholas Poullis offers advice on how to give yourself the best chance of selling your work, Steve Hall urges you to step out of your comfort zone and try a new medium and Haidee-Jo Summers encourages you to take up the #DrawingAugust challenge. Share your sketches with us, too, to win a prize and see your work published in The Artist. There's plenty more too, including the latest news, views, competitions to enter and our test report on the new Winsor & Newton Cadmium-Free watercolours.