Monday, 12 August 2013


I had read some time ago a little book by Bernard Dunstan called Composing Your Painting.   Although I am now doing the Mixed Media section of the OCA course I thought I would look at the book again to see if any of the observations would apply to Abstract paintings and collage work. 

I paraphrase below some of the essential elements to good composition as outlined in the book and have concluded that regardless of whether the painting is a traditional representational picture or an abstract image, all the elements apply. The book doesn't mention texture very much, so I have added that myself.  I have given details of the book in the footnote in case other students viewing this page may be interested in obtaining a copy of the book.

  • Volumes, large and smaller ones balanced
  • Tone – Light against dark and vice versa
  • Golden Section
  • Linear framework – divisions in work by thirds, fifths, eighths etc.
  • Counter-change
  • Shapes in tonal areas to add interest
  • Use of colour to identify tone, small against large
  • Warm v Cool, warm in cool areas and cool in warm areas
  • Neutrals, i.e. greys, creams
  • Rhythm and movement through brushstrokes and texture
  • Static composition – symmetrical
  • Soft directional lines – les movement
  • Hard directional lines – more movement
  • Short directional lines connecting to others – more interesting
  • Right Angles and echoes locking and stabilizing effect or thrust and movement
  • Curved movement: energy; guiding eye left to right, place animal or human looking in a certain direction
  • Counter directions to add interest
  • Repetition: unity, movement
  • Lost and found lines
  • Texture, rough v smooth, tonal - ie visual
Composing your Painting by Bernard Dunstan, ISBN: 0289709032 Published by Cassell Limited 1979

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