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.
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
detail vs. looseness
direction: opposing lines
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