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Arrangement in Painting

Arrangement in painting can start with a set of rules.

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Arrangement in painting lesson is now available on DVD No.1

Learn What Makes a Good Arrangement in Painting – Step 2

arrangement in painting Lessons for Beginners

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About arrangement in painting – landscape paintings

Most good landscape paintings catch your eye and hold your interest by having well placed objects in the landscape – we call this ‘arrangement in painting’
Tones, meaning light and dark, most good landscape paintings when viewed in black and white will still hold your attention. We will talk more about tones later. –
Arrangement is where the objects are placed, that is sky, clouds, mountains, trees, water and rocks etc. –
Here you can work to a formula and experiment with the formula.

Let’s make a formula for arranging a painting: – Have the horizon above or below the center of your work, not in the very middle of the picture as this might cut your picture in half and cause the viewer’s eye to travel off the picture.

Do not place objects such as trees, cabins, rocks, people etc., in the very center of the painting.
This area is best left for the viewer’s eye to rest after scanning the objects around the painting.
So the idea is to trap the viewer’s eye by placing objects here and there around the painting in such positions and shapes as to give the eye a path to follow.
We do this by keeping trees leaning in to the picture, maybe shape a branch for the eye to travel along towards the next object which might be a cottage facing in to the picture, then a fence coming in to the picture and if needed a log or a few tusks of grass to steer the eye around and in to the picture.
Where mountains reach the edge of the picture, they should slope down into the picture, even if it’s just a little bit, for mountains dropping off out of the picture will surely attract the viewer’s eye out of the picture, however if the mountain must slope down and out, this can be compensated by a carefully placed object with the strength to attract the eye away from the mountain and back into the picture.
So it is all a matter of balancing your paintings.

  • Have a look at some well-known landscape paintings

    and see if you can follow the path that the artist has laid out to catch and steer the viewer’s eye around and towards the middle of the painting. (not just landscapes)

  • You might also notice the dark tones nearer the edges of the paintings and a bright glow somewhere near the center; this is another part of our formula.

  • Correct perspective is important, that is, things near you in the foreground are very big and things far away in the background are very small.
  • You must learn how to judge the correct size of objects in the landscape so as to have everything in perspective.
  • You might learn the construction lines used by draftsmen and imagine those lines on your painting as you work.
  • It sounds complicated but it is simple.
  • Or look at items in nature, comparing a tree near you with a tree in the distance.
  • Hold a ruler at arms length and compare their heights.
  • Again it sounds complicated but these bits of knowledge will stay with you forever.
  • The correct perspective is determined by the correct size of the objects and the

    correct tones

    of the objects in your paintings. We will talk more about tones later. Here are a few more tips about arrangement.

    • Painting dvds
  • Too much sky looks better than too little sky.
  • Keep the corners of your paintings dark and un-interesting.
  • Try to not have objects too close or too far from the edge of the painting.
  • A finished painting can be cropped to adjust the arrangement if needed.
  • Try not to have water running off the very bottom of your scenes, running off at the side or corner is better.

Australian landscapes lend themselves to long paintings, 1×2, 2×4 etc. that does not mean upright paintings are out, they are popular also.
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by Len Hend

8 Comments

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  1. Hi Len I am bursting to do some painting. I love colour and the fluidity of paint and the magic of colour. I have been playing around for over several years now. I have been to some classes but only get discouraged because it seems everyone else can at least draw. I am very much into abstract and landscape. I love painting things that are about emotion and meaning. I don’t want to paint flowers and I’ve only gotten frustrated at classes where I have to try and draw a vase etc. I want to know where do I start in putting my ideas and the paint onto a surface. I’ve dabbled in acrylics, watercolour, oils and soft pastels. I have a whole heap of ideas and things that I’ve started but never finished. I want to learn technique and where to begin. I am so frustrated. I’m not young, but young at heart. Only regret I didn’t have the courage to do this years ago, choosing an academic career over following my heart. Suggestions where and how to start please. Julie, South Australia

    1. Julie you are in a good situation because you want to start to learn to paint and many beginners start by painting a masterpiece without learning how to paint.
      Best to use plenty of cheap paint etc. Big brushes, 2 inch house painting brush, and little brushes.
      Paint freely and loosely (like you are dancing and nobody is watching) – this way you will train your hand to control the brush and paint.
      Paint whatever you wish – keep everything facing into the middle – keep the middle bright – keep the corners dark – shut your eyes – turn the music up – enjoy – see http://paintwithlen.com/how-to/instant-artist/ and http://paintwithlen.com/free-lessons/loose-painting/

      1. Hi Len.

        I’ve taken up painting again after many years from watching your videos. I think your advice, lessons and tips are brilliant. I’ve got a load of acrylic paper i’m going to practice drawing clouds and foliage and branches and mountains on and water and just do tons of pages on those until i can do them with my eyes shut like you say. Anyway, just wanted to say i really like your videos and will definitely do your loosening up painting as well…I’m sticking with monotone for the time being..Mostly burnt umber and white.

        cheers.

        1. All the best with it Frank – if needed you can ask me how I think you are going anytime by placing an image on the advice page http://paintwithlen.com/help-painting/

  2. I have only been painting for three years now with no formal training. You have been a great find for me . I have and still am learning a lot from your tutorials. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

  3. i have become a fan of yours i am old when i was young all i saw was bob ross and really enjoyed his work. i am now 72 and u r inspiring me to paint again u show and tell which really means a lot i am amazed at how much i haved learned u can show an old dog new tricks
    THANK U SO MUCH
    ERNIE WELLS

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