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Landscape Composition & Design Tips For Watercolor Beginners

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Step 1: Deciding What To Paint For A Landscape Composition


It may seem obvious, but before any painting, you have to make certain crucial decisions. This includes deciding what to paint, why you’re painting it, and how you want to express this with watercolors. Steve also recommends knowing what’s visually exciting to you, as this will affect your direction as an artist.

The next step would be to form a composition based on your decisions. Steve sketches an example of a bad composition, where he frames a plant in the center of the composition. This leaves no room for the background to be planned in a way that complements the subject matter. He then sketches a better composition of the same plant by enlarging it, then shifting it to the right. He also adds a table in the background to give the plant a place in space.

Composition is about knowing how to fill a blank space, and using the right balance of positive and negative space to do so. “Positive space” is the enclosed area that defines an object, while “negative space” is the empty area between two objects. Like light and darkness, you can’t have one without the other. This forms the foundation of any composition, where you break down your subject matter into simple shapes and consider their relationship with each other. It’s also about how you frame a subject in a way that your reason behind the painting comes through.