Composition Skill Builders | The Organizational Shape

Several years ago, Doug Dawson made a discovery that changed the way he views nature and how he approaches the problem of painting: “I call it the principle of the organizational shape. This new approach changed what I look for in subject matter, how I go about composing a painting and what I think about when finishing a piece.” Read all about it in the February 2012 issue of Pastel Journal on sale here, and see the following examples of how he put the idea to work:

Clear Creek Run Off (15.5x17.5). Waterfalls, cataracts and small patches of snow, reflections off of puddled water are places to look for light organizational shapes.










Clear Creek Run Off (thumbnail). An example of an organizational shape that is made up of light and light middle values.










In the painting, Moored, where the water meets distant land, the bottom edge of the land mass is flat and level and thus uninteresting. Dark reflections in the water, overlapping boats, or other land masses can break up the edge.










In the thumbnail for Moored, you can see that the water, like snow and fog, can make the organizational shapes obvious.










I find the organizational shape in the painting, Fallen Pine, very exciting, because of its very unpredictable edges.










In the Fallen Pine thumbnail, I think of a branches as part of the edge of a larger shape, not individual things.









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