• Ambbali Bhattacharyya Dutta

Secret of Composition in a Painting

Have you ever noticed the fact that if asked to paint a specific subject to 10 different people, who are at the initial stage of learning, each of them will make their own version of the same subject which is not so similar with the original subject ? Because they do not paint what they see, they paint what their brain instructs them to do. There is a communication gap between the eyes and the brain. You need to train the brain to translate what your eyes see or how you want it to see. This is like a conversation between the brain mind and eyes.




For the hyper-realists, they train their brain to follow strictly what their eyes see. It is a highly skilled work . For the Impressionists it is like training the brains to see what their minds want it to see. They have their own way of seeing things . And this phenomenon of seeing things as per your aesthetic vision is called having an “Artist eye”.


The Artist regards everything around as a potential subject. She/He has a constant quest to translate everything through own way. Their work is the reflection of what they observe with their creative minds. Observation is the key of a successful painting . You need to learn to see the subject in everything you see around you.


While painting portraits people struggle to achieve the similarity between the painting and the subject . Even while doing a landscape or citiscape they struggle to sketch few specific areas i.e positioning a particular element in the painting or understanding the shape or perspective and tonal intensity of the subject . As result they are dissatisfied with their completed painting for not achieving what they want. Painting is the consequence of the depth of the understanding between the subject and the artist. It is a two-way relationship between the two. The primary reason of the confusion is the communication gap between the subject and the artist. You must treat your subject with a lot of patience and passion. Patience comes from the practice and passion comes from the desire to achieve the your goal.


You might also want to read, how to stay creative ?


Before starting any painting read your subject in detail with patience. There is no hurry. Observe each and every element: the position in the subject, the reaction to the light, the tonal value. Read and analyse how you can play with your subject by manipulating lights, by adding any elements or by omitting any unnecessary element. An artist has the ability to not just read words, but objects. Bring out this ability in you. Declutter your thoughts by doing few small draft sketches with the composition you have in your vision. Excessive thoughts and object may blur your vision. Observe the subject, feel the mood and ambiance, close your eyes and try to see how you want to see that specific subject on your paper. Does that make you happy?




To sum up, the first technique, the following steps need to be understood :


1) Observe - Patiently read your subject.


2) Declutter - Focus on the important elements, and eliminate the rest.


3) Draft - Try out rough sketches of different compositions using thumbnails.


4) Feel - Feel the mood and make changes in your drafts.


Once you start practicing this, you will eventually see the difference in your skill. Observe and learn. Train your self to build an artist eye. It is all about training your mind.


Another way to build up artist eye is to practice looking at everything as if it is the subject for your painting. Observe the tree that you come across everyday while going home. How it looks in the natural light, how the shadow adds beauty and makes it extra -ordinary. Observe the flowers in your garden in different light during the day. Observe the corner of your home that looks surreal in the morning light. Observe people around you, their skin tones, facial features, eye colors, their postures, their expressions. Observe everything. This practice will enrich you with experience and that will add value to your painting in long term.


Also, check this free guide to choosing the right colour scheme.


Observation and reading your subject will make you more aware about the reaction of your subject in any particular situation. In the long term it will help you to create your own creative composition because you will be confident about repositioning of the elements in particular situation and its consequences on the painting from your experience .

Do a lot of draft sketches that helps to built up clear vision before the final painting. Practise as many as 20 sketches a day if you are a beginner.

So next time you plan your painting first read the subject, observe and analyse, declutter your thoughts with draft sketches and then start . And when you are not painting, observe everything you come in contact in your daily life. The power of observation will make your perception stronger and enrich your strokes.


Happy Painting !


For easy painting ideas for beginners, click here.


This is a Guest Blog by Ambbali Bhattacharyya Dutta, who is an international watercolorist, art educator and art activist from Delhi; Founder of Art Live Global and AME by Ambbali Art Cafe. Connect with her - Facebook, Instagram, Youtube.

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