Learn How Artists Develop the Composition of Their
There are several ways that artists develop painting composition. These include thumbnail sketching
Thumbnail sketches are quick drawing that is done in a rapid way that is known as gestural drawing. These are
tiny drawings that the large work will be based on later.
These drawings are also usually very small – maybe an inch or two in width and breadth. Mainly thumbnail
sketches are used as memory aids and as a way of planning painting
Often these sketches are also filled in with color or hatched with shading but they are never bogged down with
Thumbnail sketches are also sometimes called “working drawings” although in theory a working drawing could also
be much larger. Some artists to prefer to create their pieces from working drawings that are almost as large as the
The key is to not put too much detail into the working drawing. Detail is saved for the actual work of art that
you are trying to create while using the working drawing as a reference.
Lesson one for most artists who want to learn composition is to draw a still life. This is the typical
“bowl of fruit” or “vase of flowers” that is set on a table. As an artist you must replicate these objects on your
The traditional still life drawing is fruit and crockery. Fruit is a good choice because it is so easy to draw.
Including wine bottles as part of your still life composition is also good. You can make an interesting still life
using other objects such as spectacles, candles or animal horns. However try not to use objects that entail a lot
of detailed attention.
If your still life is taking a long time you can take pictures of it. This may be necessary to keep the
integrity of your painting composition which may be affected by decay or changing light. Having some control of the
light by shedding your own light source on the still life can help you keep everything stable so that it is easier
No matter what the subject matter is the point is to arrange the composition so that it is attractive. It is a
mistake to try and make everything balanced and even. Central positioning is just not that attractive. In drawing
composition there are no real rules, just an eye for what is going to look good in the end.