Saturday, November 2, 2013

Composition and Block In

Leisurely Drive, oil, 8x10

Just this past week I began including oil painting students in my class that I teach at my studio, which used to be strictly a pastel class. Now it's a combined oil/pastel class. And if it works out well this way, I'm hoping to alternate pastel and oil demos for each class, which I now hold on a monthly basis.

For this past week's class, my demo was in oil, and the focus was on constructing a value thumbnail and basing the block in on the value thumbnail. Although my demo was in oil, my pastel approach is done much in the same way.

Whether it was from having new students in the class, concentrating harder on doing a demo in oil, or just my awful memory, but I forgot to photograph my initial block in. Yes, as I mentioned, that was the focus of this class...and I forgot. Sorry.

But I do have my initial sketches to show...

The thumbnail sketches are what I find most students avoid. But these serve as my road map to find my way into the painting. The top one is how I divide up the placement of each element. Since I use tracing paper for my sketches, I place the paper over my photo and shift each element to it's most ideal placement. Also, I can more easily see if any element will fall along either center axis, and if it does, I move it to a better spot. In the bottom sketch, I grouped shapes into about 5 values, combining as many shapes and values as possible.

reference photo
As my painting progressed, I found that I did have to lighten the foreground trees on the left (compared to my value sketch) to give it a more "light filled" look.


  1. I just found your blog, and I'm loving it. Wish that I lived near enough to take your classes; they sound wonderful, especially the composition class.

    1. Thank you! I have workshops planned throughout the country in 2014. The schedule is on my website ( if you'd like to see if there's one coming up near you!