Tips for developing better still life designs and compositions

Learn how quality compositions improve your art and why you need to develop good creative habits.

Even though this tutorial is all about how to develop better still life designs you can opt to use these skills on any subject. The main point to take away from the lesson is you need to develop your compositions and designs before paint hits the paper.

Artists of all levels tend to be impatient.

It seems like the only thing that matters is painting finished art. Instead of working methodically, and smart, they opt for instant gratification. The

When you work hastily you will end up in an undesirable situation. You know the one I'm talking about, right? You've spent hours on a painting and it's awful.

So, instead of backing away you continue to slap more paint on the canvas as if some kind of miracle will eventually happen and the masterpiece will reveal itself.

This approach is not so good but you will occasionally get lucky. But let's be honest. It's not the most successful way to approach your art.

Develop good fundamentals with pencil and paper

Here's a much better solution.

As the demo illustrates you can solve many potential problems with pencil and paper. By doing some thumbnail sketching it's easy to discover solutions by adjusting the design, composition and value structure.

Does all of this make your head spin?

If so, you probably haven't invested enough time into learning proper fundamentals. And if this the case you are in a world of heartache and no fancy brush, premium canvas or top shelf paint is going to fix it!

Spend quality time on the right tasks.

No shortcuts!

I recommend to every artist, and all of my students, to invest no less than fifteen minutes with each new image, or scene. If you have the desire to paint something why not make it more personal? Add your signature touches and shift things around some. Make it your own!

This is what the great ones do. They take their subjects and experiment with different ideas before paint hits the canvas.

Once the issues are resolved it makes the painting process much easier. Many artists will tell you the painting will paint itself if you have developed a workable design.

And it takes the guess work out of the process. You no longer will have to scratch your head and wonder why your art is dreadful.

Half of being smart is knowing what you are dumb about. - Solomon Short


Does it work every time?

Of course not! Bad decisions will still be made but the success rate goes higher. Plus you start to develop the necessary skills you need to become an artist.

You see vision is half the battle.

When you start to develop quality design and composition skills they will reward you over and over. You will start to develop a keen vision for spotting potential problems within seconds of looking at an image, or scene.

Over time you begin to work intuitively. It gets easier to recognize and solve problems. You start to build a repertoire of design and composition tools. Accessing them is easy once you have the experience.

This is a completely different level than trying to copy images, or simply ignoring fundamental skills. You don't need to be dogmatic about this but you shouldn't be stubborn, or naive either.

Quality art is all about the approach.


The majority of failed paintings can be blamed on three things. Lack of good drawing skills, value structure and poor design choices.

If you look at the bad art long enough you will begin to understand the real reason why it didn't work. Its demise can be traced back to the very beginning. And for most that beginning involved painting and not designing.

Instead of investing fifteen minutes into design the artist forges ahead only imagining how awesome this painting will be. Hours later they are disappointed once again with thoughts of giving up the idea of creating impactful artwork.

Make a deal with yourself right now! From this moment forward you will always devote ten minutes of time into each painting before you consider adding one brushstroke to the canvas.

If you do this I can guarantee you much more success. And you will start to build a solid foundation for years to come.

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