Creative Jumpstarts: Composition: Position is everything

In this jump start I want to work on composition and creating a mood.  First I want you to break out your sketch book and work with a shape or shapes that your are really comfortable with, perhaps a simple house, boat or in my case a group of figures.  Really have a feeling for these shapes so you don’t have to copy from a photograph.  These are my version of my wonderful friend Christine’s, New Orleans photographer, par excellence, lonely cowboy with friends.  Probably too much of an inside story but appropriate.


Sorry for the fuzzy image sometimes in the rush to bring these to you I miss a few focus chances with the camera.  I think you get the idea.  These drawings are small little sketches in an 8 x 11 sketch book.  I couldn’t paint without this sketch book.

Once you have the shapes in your book and your confidence with them is good, take a piece of watercolor paper, and tape off three different sized sections.
What we are going to do is to position the shapes in different locations on the paper and make them different sizes and have a different relationship to each other.  8×8 opaque watercolor,

Our goal is to see how the positioning of the shapes effects the mood and the strength of the composition.  8 x 8 opaque watercolor,In all three of these I used Sky Blue, Raw Sienna, Coastal Fog, Titanium White and Lamp Black.

I want you to use basically the same color relationships for all of the versions, that way you can really see which composition works best.  By changing the colors you will not get and accurate reading of the impact of the repositioning of the shapes.  When you find the arrangement that you like the best you can augment the colors slightly to produce a finished painting but at first just use a simple color palette and see how the position  of the shapes affects the compositions mood. 

16 x 16 opaque watercolor on 300lb paper, I added several figures to the upper left.  This gives it a very apocalyptic quality and it is exactly what I was looking for.  Now for the honesty part I did these three paintings for my Studio Class in Alexandria Virginia.  It was great fun.

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  • mary sortinoJune 4, 2012 - 8:31 pm

    Muy interesante, lo practicaréReplyCancel

  • Peg SheridanJune 5, 2012 - 3:32 pm

    Wonderful! I can’t wait to try it!ReplyCancel

  • christine gacharnaJune 5, 2012 - 8:08 pm

    each time you post something, I think oh — that’s my favorite post of his work EVAH! when will it end?

    so cool.ReplyCancel

  • MercedesMarch 1, 2014 - 1:07 pm

    Hello Steve. I am enjoying your Jump Starts. Along with your Demonstrations and Lessons, they are your posts that I like more because I have much to learn. Without detracting from the other publications of course. Thanks for sharing them. RegardsReplyCancel