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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Principles of Good Design

Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painters disposal for the expression of his feeling”                                                                         Henri Matisse

“The Principles of Good Design”, are what we try and achieve in all of our artistic work.  Value being the most important.  It is the play of dark against light that makes a viewer look at a painting.  It is what immediately catches the eye.  It also is related to the element of color, and therefore it is the principle that helps set the mood or tone of the painting.  Then we strive for: harmony of color, rhythm to help us move around the painting, dominance of a shape or color, variety in lines and shapes, balance so one side isn’t heavier than the other, and in the end, total unity.  These principles are the same in abstract work as they are in realistic work.

Photo Nova Scotia

Realistic painters usually use a reference photo unless they are painting out in the field.  Learning to edit your photo, or field of vision; to make a strong a composition, knowing what to delete and where to move elements in your reference, is important to the unity of the composition.  Gathering photos to work from is an important process.  The best photos don’t always make the best pictures. These are some photos I have gathered this week, on vacation, to work from.

photo taken by FL artist Carolyn Land

Will I need to delete, move, or crop, part of these photos to make an interesting painting? What about the color?  Is the color in the photo the same as what I saw when I was facing my subject?

I received an email asking where I teach Pastel.  It is at the Artists’ Workshop, Inc., in New Smyrna Beach, FL.  We have a “Principle of Good Design in Pastel and Other Realistic Work” class starting on Monday September 26th.  If you live in the area and are interested, please contact me at .

If you have been following my blog you will know that I believe that the creative process is a very personal.  Therefore, I teach composition and techniques, and allow the students to create what they want to express, using subject matter they feel passionate about.  Remember…paint what you love.

“Nature is very rarely right, to such an extent even, that it might almost be said that nature is usually wrong; that is to say, the conditions of things that shall bring about the perfection of harmony worthy a picture is rare, and not common at all.”                                                                                  James Whistler

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