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In the frame

Part 1 Tony Paul begins a four-part series on composition by looking at how the use of classic shapes can enhance your paintings



How to compose your paintings

Understand how various classic shapes can enhance your work

Upon starting to paint many beginners and improvers will be working from a ready-made image – a photograph or other reference that has appealed to them. The subject will already have been pre-composed in the eye of the photographer or original creator of the image.

As these painters progress, they will often acquire a sense of what works and what doesn’t. They may learn about the law of threes, which is loosely based on the golden section and which enables the user to ‘play safe’ in producing work. Like most things, however, this is really just scratching the surface of how much enhancement considered composition gives to a subject, if used well.


Here we have a rectangle, which has had a spot marked within it. This spot provides a focus for the eye within the rectangle. The spot also relates to the edges of the rectangle. In this case it is a tranquil relationship, being placed equi-distant between the two sides, but a little nearer to the top than the bottom. The reason for the latter is that, if it had been placed dead centre vertically, it would look as if it were lower than the centre (this is an optical effect and why, when making mounts for paintings, the skilled artist will always make the width of the top and sides equal, but the bottom a little wider). So the effect of this most simple of compositions is one of tranquillity.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Leisure Painter - Oct-17
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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the October issue of Leisure Painter (now 80 pages PLUS this month's 16-page art courses and holidays supplement). Aimed at beginners, less-experienced amateurs and hobby painters, LP is the best-selling practical art magazine in the UK. Inside you'll find practical advice, exercises and demonstrations on how to paint with watercolour, acrylics, acrylic inks, oils, pastels and drawing media, as well as tackling mixed-media approaches. With everything from adding figures to your beach scenes to gardens, flowers, animals, still lifes and landscapes, we aim to fill your painting hours. There's even a challenge to complete a miniature medieval initial letter in gold this month. Then sit back and view the award-winners of this year's Leisure Painter Open Competition, and read news on exhibitions, diary events, art club activities, the latest practical art books and our online home, PaintersOnline. The final 16 pages of this month's issue will help you plan your next art course. Enjoy the issue!