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Building Blocks
Student Comments
"Thereís no
way your
paintings canít
improve after
this course"
"Iíve been painting on my own for a while and thought I was doing okay. Now that Iím taking this course I see so many things I can learn from that will make my work so much better. This is the stuff you canít get in art school anymore, sadly. Thereís no way your paintings canít improve after this course. Thatís how strongly I feel about it." ... Bob Akers., Crystal Lake, IL, United States

"...really superb"

"I find your courses really superb in two ways: first they are very complete and comprehensive, and second they go straight to the point, to the essentials. Both my wife and I paint and we both agree that these art instruction courses are one of the best sources of education for people who want to learn to paint in a direct or alla prima style" Bernado Martin, Alicante, Spain.

Erika is
her dream
"This course is truly well run, professionally handled -- and I can only echo the great comments of other students: I am glad, I enrolled in this course!! I got so much out of it already -- lots of explanations, areas to study up on, other artists to learn from. AND I am not at the end of the course, yet. I am getting more and more confident and bold enough to follow my dream -- to become a proficient and sensitive artist. Erika, USA, 2009
"...already noticed
in my work"
"In my opinion, your material is the best I have found. It builds the basics, from the ground up, recognizing that there are no short cuts.....Your course puts all the right info into one package, and even more important, it gives me an organized, building block way to get these things into my head, and I have already noticed an improvement in my work," George, USA
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Building Block: Composition

Painting made powerful by design.
What is included in the Composition Building Block?
Many students think that they know a lot about composition and first purchase the Color or Brushwork Building Blocks, thinking that is what is wrong with their paintings. Nearly always they are wrong. Partly this is because composition in most books on painting is treated very superficially, when in fact it is a very broad and highly complex subject. Composition is the essence of the painting , not something you do to make the painting better. In fact you cannot distinguish the painting and the composition. They are one and the same thing.

It is always the composition that distinguishes the masters from the amateurs, and the competition prize winners from the rest. This set of course units goes into depth into all the key concepts of design and composition. They describe all the major principles and illustrate each of them with both examples of how to do it, and how not to do it.
Some of the things you will learn:
Space division: how to layout the space in your painting effectively, including principles such as the Golden Mean, rabatment of the rectangle, overlapping form, transitions, right angles, and counterpoint
Focal Points: how to increase the interest in your painting using techniques such as active versus passive, primary and seconday focal areas, when and where to use detail effectively
Eye Pathways: how to control your viewer's eye movement to increase interest in your paintings
Design: critical elements such as shape variety, rhythm, balance , repetition, and variety
Line: the element of line in your composition and how to take advantage of it
How does it work?
Buy Membership
  Academy membership costs $79 USD per month and gives you a private account on our system where you can access our lessons, assignments & online community. Access to the online campus means you can upload your assignments and share them with other students from across the world, as well as access to supplemental learning materials such as videos and examples. You can cancel your membership at any time.
No Risk Trial
There are no commitments to the Painting Academy. You can cancel at any time, there are no contracts. You're free to go, free to stay.
"The material is very well presented and easy to understand - no lengthy explanations but short and condensed paragraphs with a load of very valuable information. Along with plenty of illustrations, this makes it a fun and easy study."

What is included in each course unit?


Composition Unit One - Far Music

Design is what differentiates the master paintings from the rest. Composition is more than just arranging things in your picture. To make a picture interesting it must have a strong abstract design.In this course unit you will learn the important high level principles of composition, as well as the six key different approaches for developing your composition.You will learn:
  • the concept of "Visual Music," without which a painting is just an illustration.
  • what to look for when you start a painting – seven types of design or "music"concepts.
  • the "principles of composition" and how to use them.
  • the hierarchy of compositional principles and why some principles of composition are more important than others

Composition Unit 2 - Space Division

For your next painting, think carefully about how to divide the main spaces and how you link them together. Make good use of baselines (the line that defines the bottom of objects) to convey a three-dimensional feel to the spaces in your painting. Overlapping forms further help to create a three-dimensional feeling. You can use techniques such as having two lines meet at right angles to add strength to the composition and the principle of tie together to make the composition appear less disjointed.Less experienced painters tend to make the same mistakes, such as tangents and equal space division. By avoiding these problems your paintings will look more professional.
This unit continues the exploration of the subject of space division to improve your painting composition. You will learn:
  • the principles of baselines and ground contours that will help give your landscapes depth and make them more convincing
  • how to use foregrounds and the concept of 'walk room'
  • how to use overlapping forms to give your landscapes depth and help to clarify the forms in your painting
  • common problems with overlapping forms
  • how to use right angles to give strength and solidity to your painting compositions
  • the importance of shape simplification to strengthen your design
  • the problems of tangents and how to avoid them
  • how to use the technique of 'tie together' to bring your painting composition into a more unified design
  • the key principle of unequal space division

Composition Unit 3 - Organizational Structures

The single most important principle in composition is unity and variety. The first part of this is
unity and is essential for tying together the painting into a coherent whole.In this course unit you will learn a series of different frameworks for creating unity in your paintings. These frameworks have been used for centuries to strengthen a design. I call them "organizational structures". Each of these structures will help tie together your painting and give it unity

Composition Unit 4 - Contrast

Contrast is one of the keys to a successful painting. In fact, one of the ways of looking at a painting is as a series of contrasts between all the different elements of a painting. Paintings with contrast prevent the painting from being boring.Each contrast creates interest and helps to emphasize the key parts of your painting that you want to bring to the attention of your viewer.  

Composition Unit 5 - Focal Points

Many beginners and amateurs look at a scene and are inspired to paint all of it, but that leaves the painting without any focus. Direct your viewer to one part of your painting by making the focal point or focal area more interesting. You only need one primary center of interest. For example, when painting marine scenes, if you are interested primarily in the ocean, tone the sky down and simplify it so it doesn't detract from the ocean. Conversely, if you are primarily interested in the sky, tone down the sea. This painting has a staccato focal point (a small point or line that the viewer's eye gravitates towards in the painting) of the two figures.
In this unit you will learn a range of techniques for creating a focal point or focal area, in order to give your work more variety and make the painting composition more interesting for the viewer. You will learn:
  • the difference between staccato focal points and focal areas
  • how to increase the interest of a painting by adding a secondary focal area
  • how to use contrast of shape and direction in focal areas
  • the role color saturation plays in focal points and focal areas
  • how to use the contrast of light and dark to create a focal area
  • four tips when using directing lines to enhance your focal areas
  • how to use isolation to draw attention to a part of your painting composition
  • the role space division plays in creating natural and logical positions for focal points and focal areas
  • the principle of one-thirds in positioning focal points
  • the use of contrast of temperature for creating focal areas and examples of its use


Composition Unit 6 - Eye Movement

You may be able to create an eye-catching painting, but you need to keep the viewer looking at it and finding interest in it for more than just a moment. If you provide a pathway for the eye to follow, the longer a viewer is drawn to look at your painting, and the more interesting that painting is to them. Your goal is to keep the viewer's interest by keeping their eye moving around the painting composition, and at the same time preventing the eye leaving the painting or getting trapped in one spot. See how the eye is moved around the painting of Bastia Harbor, keeping the viewer's interest.
This unit will help you learn how to keep the viewer's interest in your painting composition. You will learn:

  • how to use the space around shapes to aid the eye movement
  • the five most common pitfalls students make relating to eye movement
  • the use of 'C', 'S', and 'O' forms as plans for eye movement
  • how to create eye movement in three dimensions
  • how to use color to keep the viewer's eye moving around the painting composition
  • how to prevent the viewer's eye leaving the painting or getting trapped in one spot
  • the technique of linking lights to enhance the eye movement paths
  • the technique of guiding lights and darks to help keep the viewer's eye moving
  • entering points and what to avoid when using them
  • the relationship between density of space division and eye movement

Composition Unit 7 - Line

If you are not careful, your paintings of boats in a harbor, cityscapes and other subjects that have a lot of straight lines can be very dull if all the lines go in one direction. By adding a line going in the opposite direction, a counterpoint, you both emphasize the other lines and at the same time prevent the eye sliding out of the picture. This also creates a type of 'balance' in the work. In this painting of Giudecca, Venice, the crane in the distance is painted at a ninety degree angle to the wharf, creating a counterpoint.
This unit explores the role of line and linear relationships in compositional arrangement. You will learn:
  • the principle of graceful line and why exaggeration is sometimes important
  • how to use interrelationship of line when designing shapes in your painting composition to give your design a hidden strength
  • the importance of creating transitions between shapes, and lessons from ancient architecture
  • the principle of counterpoint and how to create more 'balance' in your painting composition
  • how to use line and linear brushwork to suggest action and turbulence
  • how to apply the principle of rhythym to improve unity and interest in your painting composition
Our comprehensive 4 year program of study
for all levels

The Painting Academy is designed to be both suitable for beginners and professionals alike. If you are serious about improving your painting skills, no matter your current level, and you want to become an excellent artist and you are looking for a comprehensive in-depth program of study that's expertly organized, then look no further. You will get immediate access to:
192 Lessons
340 Assignments
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