Jen’s Picks: Design Powerful Paintings

Mastering Composition (Book + DVD)
Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting
by Ian Roberts
It’s no secret that composition makes or breaks a painting. The visual dynamics of your picture can invite the viewer’s eye to come in, explore interesting corners, and linger over subtle nuances. Or they can literally drive the eye right out of the picture. The “secret” that remains for many artists is “exactly HOW to make it work?”

Help is here! Mastering Composition takes the mystery out of designing great paintings. Drawing upon 40+ years of painting and teaching experience, author Ian Roberts delivers a strong, hands-on sense of how to build dynamic compositions that work. Every time. It’s like flipping a switch and seeing your painting in a whole new light! 

Improve Your Paintings, Step By Step!
As you follow along with five step-by-step demonstrations, you’ll master several techniques for creating powerful compositions, including how to:

  • Choose good references and create a range of thumbnail designs
  • Identify set structures at work within a composition. Learn how the Old Masters used these very same designs to create movement, narrative, harmony and fluidity.
  • Crop and frame your subject in a way that creates the best relationship of value masses
  • Analyze your paintings in terms of color shapes of value, hue and intensity.

Step 1: 
Plan big masses, then add details to help guide the eye through the painting.

Step 2:
Create a thumbnail drawing to establish the value masses.

Finished Painting
Dogwoods at Kolapore, by Ian Roberts, from Mastering Composition.

40-Minute Bonus-DVD Included!
The unique companion DVD in the back of the book will help you understand how to control visual dynamics to keep a viewer enthralled with your picture.

  • View a series of Ian’s paintings along with the intended armature and center of interest.
  • Then, watch as a small adjustment (the color intensity heightened or a value exaggerated) is made to part of the painting. An arrow will indicate how the change pulls your eye away from the original flow of the composition.

Regardless of your subject or medium, Mastering Composition is sure to become one of the most treasured books in your art library. With instruction as engaging as his paintings, Ian breaks “composition” down brilliantly, and presents exercises to help you grasp the ideas simply and concretely so that you can paint your best work yet!

About Ian
“Until that shift is made and you start thinking in abstract masses on a picture plane, you are, in a sense, on the outside of the painting process looking in.”
For more on Ian Roberts and Mastering Composition click here.

Related Links
Browse through real pages of the Mastering Composition book here.

Order the Mastering Composition Book + DVD here.

Watch a preview of the Mastering Composition video here.

Order the Mastering Composition video on it’s own without the book here.


Tomales Bay, Evening, by Ian Roberts from Mastering Composition.

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