How to Draw


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Composing on a Canvas

It will be seen from all this that when you look at nature, you will be looking at it with a different eye and from a different point of view. You will be looking at it more selectively. You will be choosing those elements that will be useful and effective on a canvas. And this is where outdoor drawing and sketching will become so useful.

Because it will be from those drawing and color notes that your picture will be built up. You will know what you are looking for. You will always have at the back of your mind what you can do with your paint on a canvas and it will help you to look more carefully.


Because nature is so wonderfully balanced, is never boring or monotonous, we must try to emulate her and avoid boredom or monotony on our canvases. A simple way to do this is to make sure that you do not repeat the same shape too often, especially a rectangle shape, and to avoid symmetry (Fig. 36). Balance will be more interestingly achieved by assymetry. You will see that painters often deliberately place the most important shape in their pictures not in the center, but a little to one side. This relationship with the edges of your canvas is better than putting all the interest bang in the center.

Another shape, that relates well with a rectangle, is a triangle, and many great paintings have been constructed either wholly or in part on the basis of a triangle.

A horizon, or any strong horizontal line, is always put above or below the center of the canvas. The two shapes made by this bisection must be unequal, otherwise we will become bored with them. It is so with any vertical lines you use (Fig. 37).

From these simple beginnings: unequal placing of the main lines, putting the main shape off center and built up in the shape of a triangle, a great number of famous paintings have been constructed. It is good fun to try tracing out the major lines and directions of any great painting to see if this is so, and to find out any other interesting devices painters get up to to make their composition interesting to the eye.

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