Introduction

“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, FRENCH PAINTER

Have you ever looked at a painting and thought that something—the color, subject, or proportions—doesn’t seem right? It’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly what is “off” in an artwork, but something will tell you that it isn’t quite right. Those little subtleties are usually caused by a bad composition.

Composition refers to the placement of elements within an artwork. Artists follow certain guidelines to evoke emotion and portray a story in a piece of art. Like following the steps of a great recipe, successful composition requires understanding how much of each element to add ...

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