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Painting Design Concepts and Composition Tips

Posted by ngwoonlam on January 22, 2008

Painting Design Concepts and Composition Tips

Viewpoints – Changing viewpoints is one way that I love. It naturally alters my dead and formulated thinking. Different viewpoints : Look up, look down, look behind, look closer, look further

Creating a problem – I try to create a problem in each painting composition I work on. This enriches my visual dictionary progressively. Once a while, I like to work on a large painting and create a large problem. It is a good benchmarking method to measure my progress.

Changing tonal keys or dominant colors – Generally, I find tonal structures and dominant colors determine the mood of a painting. Keying in brighter or darker with different color dominant could complete alter the character of a painting.

Doing the opposite – I believe this is the most powerful method to improve one’s design ability. Staying with pre-defined formulae or rules stops me from exploring. Taking risk doing the opposite things best describes what ‘composition’ is all about. I like to elaborate my points with examples below.


  • I like to paint large and loose paintings; I force myself once a while to paint small 8”X8” still life for the whole day. I have stay focus on the subject and learn to observe carefully. I always see things that I have never seen before.
  • Most plein air painters like to work only they see nice the light and shadows patterns. I once worked on location when the rain was pouring, that truly expands my colors and approaches in watercolor.
  • I like complex subject matters. So sometimes, I force myself to paint a simple single object still life.Try out many more opposite things against your preferred and you will truly enjoy the risking taking journey.
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