As painters we definitely want to engage our viewer, right? We want dynamic pieces that hold interest. Sometimes as painters we can get into a rut of making compositions that are static, lack gesture, rhythm and cadence.

Just like a boring pop song with a droning steady beat, a painting can have a boring regular pattern. I’d rather paint like a jazz musician, with spontaneous and unexpected surprises. I want my viewer to play around in my piece, not just figure it out in a second and move on. Having a variety of sizes of shapes and a variety intervals between shapes and elements is important too. I want thick and thins, especially when it comes to trees and branches. This goes for the large shapes and holds true for the smaller shapes and details. For instance, when it comes to sky holes, you want them to have a variety of size and shape, otherwise they will look amateurish have a contrived pattern.

We don’t really want this!

This would be better:

This would be even better:

When we’re composing, it’s easy to find ourselves making that regular pattern, even though we set out to give it variety. We are really programmed to create order and neatness. So we actually have to force ourselves a bit to break out of that and really pay attention to what we are actually putting down! It’s easy when we are tired or distracted to put things down without thinking about the overall effect.

How many times have you placed something smack in the center of a painting when you started out fulling intending to AVOID that?? I know I’ve done it tons and tons of times.

Then what do we do? Well, folks, I hate to say it again, but you have to do those thumbnails to really map out what you’re going to put down. When you then move to the larger piece be sure you’ve scaled up properly in the same proportion!

With Warmest Regards,


Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

These “mini-lessons” grew out of my blog. I love sharing my experience behind the easel, so these are free. I write a new one every two or three weeks, so please feel free to share with artist friends.

​These lessons are mostly written text with graphics…short but useful tidbits from the foundations of painting that touch on subjects such as aerial perspective, simultaneous contrast or using negative spaces. I guide you through different aspects of painting and art that will get you comfortable with using pastels. You’ll gain confidence to attempt work that you might have otherwise been timid about.

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