Painting Composition Ideas

By Alina Bradford

One of the best ways for an artist to add variety to artwork is to play with painting composition. A painting’s composition is basically the viewer’s window into the artist’s world, so it should be kept interesting and lively for the best effect. 

Fried egg compositionThe Fried Egg Composition

Most art teachers advise against the fried egg composition, but if done well, this style of subject placement can be very effective. A fried egg composition is when the subject is placed dead-center on the canvas. Normally this creates a boring composition because the eye is sucked into the center of the painting and fails to take in the entire painting.

To make a fried egg composition work, the artist needs to fill the entire painting with the subject. Georgia O’Keeffe was particularly good at making this type of composition work. A perfect example would be her Canna Red and Orange.The flower is placed in the center of the painting, but it fills every inch of the canvas. The lines of the flower are what makes it interesting. Each petal flows around the canvas, keeping the eye moving. This is called “leading the eye.”

Extreme Point of View

Piping Hot coffeeExtreme points of view can guide the eye through the composition. For example, take a look at the first illustration at the bottom of the article. This painting composition is formed by the viewer looking up a path from a very low perspective. The path guides the viewer through the painting.

Try these tips to find extreme perspective composition ideas:

  • Lay on your stomach and look up at the subject
  • Stand over the subject and look down on it
  • Zoom in on the subject until it’s bigger than life
  • Position the point of view so that the viewer is looking through something

Create Visual Interest with Repetition in Paintings

Can FightThe mind naturally wants to make sense of objects. It looks for patters and repetition according to Karen Stephens in her article “Beyond Brain Basics.” Maybe, that’s why repetition in paintings can be such a success.

The most obvious way to introduce repetition is to find objects that are similar and fill the entire canvas with the objects. Make sure that the most interesting or colorful objects are placed within the Rule of Thirds areas of the canvas.

Another approach is to have similar objects lead the eye around the painting with clever placement. Similar items can be placed strategically throughout the composition at various distances.

Thinking outside of the box may be a cliché, but when it comes to creating a creative painting composition, it’s essential.

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