Having completed Phase One: Panel Preparation of my 10 STEPS TO PERFECT “MINI” ART, it’s time to tackle the first of 25 paintings due December 1st for the upcoming “25 DAYS OF MINIS” on-line exhibit. To be considered a Mini, the image size must not exceed 12 x 12 inches. So I’ve chosen to paint a 12 x 12 inch composition as my first & last painting for this exhibit. My stark white prepared panel is on the easel & now I’m faced with the all important decision:

Choosing a subject for my paintings has never been a problem for me. I find inspiration everywhere ~ A recent trip to Italy has given me more subject matter than I could ever paint in a lifetime, not to mention the many other things I see on a daily basis that I am inspired to paint. As an artist, I welcome the challenges of painting shiny, reflective surfaces, cloud formations, complex trees, interesting doorways & passages, fresh fruit, flowers, & the list goes on & on. So WHAT to paint is easy, HOW to present it in an interesting way in a painting, is a bigger challenge & that’s where COMPOSITION plays a big role.

Art is a lot like music. To enjoy music it’s not necessary to know how all the notes were put together, or what instruments were used to create the song. The same holds true for art. It’s easy to enjoy viewing a great piece of art without knowing the back story of what was in the artist’s mind when composing it, or what paints were used to create it.

So if that’s your preference, feel free to fast~forward to here, to learn more about my 12 x 12 inch painting currently in the works. Otherwise, read on!!


Composition can be a deep subject, but if a painting is composed well, it will draw the viewer in & guide their eyes through the key elements in an almost subliminal manner. If a composition is weak, the end result will be an unbalanced painting that isn’t pleasing to the eye, & leaves the viewer questioning the focus of the painting. Simply put, composition is the intentional arrangement of elements, that lead the viewer to interact with a painting in a specific way. Good composition is crucial to a painting’s success & is one of the most important steps in its creation.

There are many rules, techniques & design principles that can be followed to achieve successful composition in a painting, but using principles and techniques as if they are rigid rules can also negatively affect the outcome of a painting. As artists create, they continually make decisions about line, shape, color, contrast, value, edges, etc., which all serve to lead the viewer’s eyes through elements of a painting. So an artist’s knowledge of design principles combined with intuition are important to a successful painting.

Composition is the intelligent and creative combining of the many tools painters use to tell a story.

To demonstrate the concept of composition, here are a couple of examples. In the first photo, there are many elements but there doesn’t seem to be a focal point or intended direction for your eyes to follow.

In this example, there is one element which is the focal point of this picture. Although you are aware of the space around it, the line created by the grey & white blocks of color seem to keep your eyes fixated on the center element.

This demonstrates how the use of color, line & placement of the elements can direct your eyes through a composition. The negative white space along with the roller handle, seem to lead the your eyes to the top of the photo.

This photo has a clear focal point. The convergence of many visible lines lead your eye to the figures off in the distance, but often there are implied lines in a composition that lead your eyes in a subliminal way.

Through careful crafting, planning & knowledge of design principles, an artist can engage a viewer to interact with the story within a painting.

When someone views a piece of art, it would be my guess that most wouldn’t dissect the painting as deeply as the artist who created it. If a viewer loves what they see & connects with it on some level, then I would consider that a successful painting by any measure. For me, that’s the ultimate compliment.

Painting Secrets

The photos above show the beginning stages of my first painting for the 25 DAYS OF MINIS. At this stage there’s not much to look at I know, other than to show placement of the elements & the blocked in key components of my painting. I’m not one to invest a lot of time in detailed preliminary drawings, but instead prefer to work from rough sketches to determine size & placement of key elements & make any other critical decisions at this stage that would affect the overall composition.

A painting secret: Although this is far from a big reveal, the subject of this painting is a very familiar theme that never fails to inspire me. I will continue to work on this (& 24 others) in the days ahead & look forward to unveiling this work as a framed-varnished-ready-to-purchase-painting December 1st when the on~line exhibit debuts!

Watch this one minute video showing the start of this painting.

NEXT WEEK: Phase III of my 10 STEPS TO PERFECT “MINI” ART ~ I’ll cover paints, brushes, & other fun artist things that go into making a painting!