Easy Tips For Better Paintings

Compositional Elements of a Painting

As I paint I try to keep in mind that a strong, interesting painting is strengthened by the use of opposites. I have at times used a list of elements to refer to that I taped to my easel (an easel note). Following is a list of some of the things that I look for in my paintings.

edges: soft/hard
values: light/dark
color temperature: warm/cool
color saturation: neutral/intense
color hue: opposing colors on the color wheel
paint application: thick/thin
paint character: opaque/transparent
brushwork size: small/large
shapes: small/large
detail vs. looseness
activity: passive/energetic
direction: opposing lines
fields: near/far
This list can go on and you may think of more that you would add to it. Each of these elements should be in unequal proportions and not used indiscriminately. They can all be used to unify your painting and strengthen your composition. You are the composer, directing all of these notes in the painting to lead the viewer through your composition to your intended focal point.

Related PDF easel note: Yin and Yang of Painting

Comments for this post

  1. Francine Langlais March 25, 2013, 9:44 am

    I appreciate your newletters.Precious pages for me.Thanks!

  2. Caryl Park March 25, 2013, 10:52 am

    I have just discovered this website and find it very informative – thank you. The list of yin/yang… really got me thinking and looking at my art in a different way.. I needed this info, so thank you for sharing.

    1. admin March 25, 2013, 10:00 pm

      thanks Caryl, I’m so glad you are here and that this is helpful. I posted this on my easel at one point so that I could remember to look at each of the points.

  3. ruth leech March 25, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I know many of these things but reminders are valuable and
    always want to share them around. Your beautiful paintings
    are a testimony to regard for your ‘easel notes’
    Thanks and amen :)

    1. admin March 25, 2013, 9:58 pm

      There are so many things to know about painting. Who would have know that when we start painting, but it certainly keeps it interesting. Thanks again Ruth.

  4. ruth leech March 25, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Thanks for your helps; sometimes I know this but always
    benefit from a reminder. Love your paintings! Love those
    sunset colors!!

    1. admin March 25, 2013, 9:57 pm

      thank you Ruth.

  5. arlene richardson March 25, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Thank you for newsletters.I read them several times over to try to keep the info in my head.Great information.

    1. admin March 25, 2013, 9:57 pm

      thanks Arlene, Glad you appreciate the information.

  6. Shari March 25, 2013, 4:08 pm

    Just want to say thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world. A friend recommended you (she has taken some classes from you) and shared your website with me. Being an intermediate painter, and not as dedicated as I’d like to be, these tips you share are helping me not just get motivated again, but they remind me of the pleasure of painting itself. Thank you so much.

    1. admin March 25, 2013, 9:56 pm

      Thank you Shari. I appreciate your comment and that is really nice that your friend recommended my blog. thanks

  7. Theresa Grillo Laird March 26, 2013, 9:14 pm

    Thanks for this reminder Becky! I like that some of your finished paintings are very loose and gestural and some are more detailed and tightly finished. Another contrast you can add to your list!

    1. admin March 26, 2013, 10:50 pm

      You’re welcome Theresa. I think some things lend themselves to being more detailed and less paint, but also my mood changes too.


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