Make Smarter Paintings By Reading These 15 Quotes About Composition

This article about composition was inspired by this one quote from the late, great Howard Pyle: “After the first hour of work, your lay-in should kill at a hundred yards.”  Whoa! With that sentence in mind, I did a little digging to come up with more excellent quotes and thoughts on composition to help remind us both of it’s importance…



"The Apple Polisher", Craig Shillam, 17 1/2" x 26", colored pencil

“The Apple Polisher”, Craig Shillam, 17 1/2″ x 26″, colored pencil


Thoughts On Composition


Seperate yourself and your paintings from the crowd with interesting, dynamic designs. A great composition does not have to be really complex or over the top. It doesn’t have to be overly simplified either. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself if you agree with the following quotes and thoughts about composition:


1.  “Good composition is like a suspension bridge; each line adds strength and takes none away…making lines run into each other is not composition. There must be motive for the connection. Get the art of controlling the viewer – that is composition.”   Robert Henri

2.  “Drawing and composition are the same thing.”    John Sloan

3.  “I like it first to be art, so actually dividing up the canvas is one of the most exciting things for me.”   Alice Neel

4.  “Even in front of nature one must compose.”   Edgar Degas

5.  “Developing a composition is a creative process involving intuition and thinking more than rules.”   Alessandra Bitelli

6.  “I love the complicated logic of a perfect composition. It is not just the shapes and lines that make one travel through the painting. It’s the placement of the strongest colors, the sharpest lines, and the dominant shapes.”       Kathryn Stats

7. “The diagonal gives energy to a composition. To jumble and tweak the balance is my spice of preference.     Gail Siptak

8.  “Realtors preach “location, location, location’ while artists should preach” composition, composition, composition.”    Doug Mays

9.  “All you need to do is walk away from your painting several feet, turn around and look.  This…will keep you looking at the entire composition all the way through the process.”                                                 Sandra Taylor Hedges

10. “Does it feel like elements in the painting’s composition belong together, or are they seperates bits that just happen to be in the same painting?”    Marion Boddy-Evans

11.  “I find a single focus in the scene and then play everything off that one thing.”                                                                                                 Kenn Backaus

12.  “A law of composition: If it does not fit do not force it; it is not for it.”     Jack Bartholomew

13.   “No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”       Claude Monet 

14. “Those Dutchmen had hardly any imagination or fantasy, but their good taste and their scientific knowledge of composition were enormous.”      Vincent Van Gogh

15. “Sometimes, you start out with the drawing and then the gag comes to you in the middle of it. That is when you start working on the solution of the gag, which is composition, placing equilibrium, and character design.”      Sergio Aragones

Strive For A Memorable Composition


It’s just so easy to focus on your subject matter and not the overall design at times isn’t it? While you are thinking about your next drawing or painting, be sure to remember the all important focal point. You can brush up on that with this really good focal point article.


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