Unit 6: Compose Original Art

Here you’ll learn where, why and how to position all the individual objects within your composition.
Join DrawPj student Sheila Russell Perry as she calls upon all of her skills to create a totally original artwork.

Unit 1 Outline Drawing

This course is the final of six units which together form the Complete Drawing Certificate Course.

Learning to compose original art from your imagination is a truly exciting time! Finally you get to bring together everything you’ve studied in the course so far. You’ll discover how to create totally original artworks from just a thought or simple idea.

The fundamental principles of composition

As you follow along with Sheila’s journey into learning how to compose original art, you’ll notice that at first she needs to study a number of technical aspects of composition. Gradually working through a logical three-stage process she learns how to bring her creative ideas through various stages of planning and into a completed artwork.

Excellent instructor support and coaching, from start to finish

DrawPj instructor Tannis Trydal has guided Sheila every step of the way through all six units of the course. They have worked as a team to ensure that Sheila has correctly understood and learned all of the basic fundamental principles of drawing presented to her in the course. Now she is able to regularly create totally original artworks from her imagination through to completed, professional and saleable artworks. Sheila has achieved this incredible accomplishment as you can see in her final graduating piece; a wonderfully whimsical colour pencil drawing ‘The Dinner Guest’. Well done Sheila!

The final lessons begin… Composing Original Art

Assignment Unit 6: Week 1
– List some ideas that could inspire an artwork
– Capture an idea as a rough thumbnail sketch


Hi Tannis, Here are my ideas based on week 1:

1. Ordinary Experiences
dog sleeping
at home
driving a car
working with children
walking outside

2. Natural or Constructed
boats and water

3. Inner Feelings and Imagination

Thumbnail Sketch Practice

Thumbnail pencil sketch practice


Hi Sheila, Great work here! You’ve jotted down some wonderful things and I can see many original artworks being based on these ideas:) Your thumbnail sketch is awesome. Great work using a loose thumbnail to quickly capture ideas… I keep a notebook handy just for ideas:) Keep going!

Assignment Unit 6: Week 2
– Analyse an artwork
– Describe the principles of composition used in the artwork


Hey Tannis! Here’s the next assignment! Talk to you later!

*Editors note – Sheila and Tannis’s comments have been combined.


Excellent analysis! Please see the attachment for our discussion 🙂 on this awesome artwork!

Composition Analysis

Full name of the Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Title of the painting: ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’
Size in height and width: 129.5 cm x 172.7cm (51 in x 68 in)
Medium: Oil paint on Canvas

1. Choose your Format

The format for this picture is a rectangle in a “landscape” position


2. Plan the Horizon Line and Viewpoint

I think the horizontal line and viewpoint is human eye. It certainly isn’t ant view or bird’s eye view. The horizon would be at the top of the man’s blue hat at the back of the porch.

Exactly right… it is human eye view. The artist used human eye view so that we would feel as if we are there.

3. Decide on a Focal point

Ooooh focal point is a good one on this picture. It seems like there are primary and secondary focal points if that is even a possibility. Anyway, I think the primary focal point is the man standing on right behind the woman sitting in blue and the man in the straw hat and the lunch table.

Excellent observation! I think that the Focal point is actually the woman seated at the table on the right hand side. She is
deep in conversation with both the man leaning over her and the man seated beside her. I think that it is interesting that the men are dressed so differently from one another. One seated seems to be quite casual with arms showing. … hence the most dramatic activity. The viewers eye seems to bounce from one to the other. She is positioned in the focal point area. The artist has also used sharp focus in this area as well as complimentary colors blue and orange. He has also used high contrast… the dark blue stripes in her hat against the white … the left side of her face is quite light . The face of the man seated is also highlighted.

4. Plan the Direction in Line and shape

It starts with the three people to the right front of the picture. The lightness of their clothing brings that focus forward. The eyes are drawn back and forth to the faces of the three people. Then the direction moves left across the lunch table and to the woman with the dog. The white table cloth also brings this focus forward. Next, it moves up to the man standing behind her. He’s looking toward his left and that draws the viewer’s eyes in that same direction to the woman leaning on the railing.
The way she’s leaning and looking at the man with his back to the viewer draws the attention into the centre of the picture and then to the woman drinking from a wine glass.

Next, the eyes are drawn to the two men talking behind her back and then to two men and woman on the right. And then it starts all over again where the eyes are drawn once again to the focal point of the picture.

Well done, I think that there are a few paths … I’ve drawn the primary path and a secondary path on the image below for you… The primary path enters the image from the left bottom and travels in a clockwise direction… quite directly to the focal point area.

5. Consider Repetition and Rhythm for unity

There’s repetition in the straw hats and hats just in general, two men wearing white muscle shirts, the wine bottles on the table. The stripes on the awning and the lines of the railing bring unity to the picture by keeping the focus on the people rather than being drawn to the view in the distance. The white color also is used to move the eyes into and around picture.

Fantastic observations! Patterns are repeated in the awning, the railing… straw hats, lacy collars and the laciness of the background bushes, folds in the table cloth, and clothing. The artist uses repetition throughout using color… blues, whites, yellow hats, the orange touches on the sleeves and belt of the woman leaning on the railing, the awning, flower on hat of lady in midground and lady in foreground. The colors also unite the composition…for instance the whites are strategically placed to help move the viewers eye in a circle … from table cloth in a circular motion around the group of people in the foreground. The highlights on the glasses help to unite.

6. Depth

The depth with the people is created by their proportion and the contrast of color. The images up front are lighter and larger and the ones in the back are darker and smaller. You get the sense of depth/distance in the background of the picture. It looks like it overlooks a lake and boat.

Depth is also created using linear perspective with the convergence lines of the railings. The artist also uses overlapping effectively, which is evident in skilfully arranging bottles and food items on the table as well as in the positioning of groups of people in the fore ground and middle ground. The back ground is well done using cool blues and greens to help the elements recede more into the background, The colors of the bushes being darkest closer to the bottom, and lighter where they will catch the sunlight. They are also blurred so that they seem even further away. The facial features of the people furthest away have less detail.

7. Use variety in the Mass sizes

There is a variety in the proportion/size of people. This is to give depth and interest to the image.

Yes… notice that the table, along with the background trees… are the largest mass sizes, then the people which are grouped together in a balanced way, then the smaller items such as hats, glasses, dishes facial features …composition is well balanced . For instance the large white area of the table cloth with groupings of small items on it such as dishes, glasses wine bottles … helps to balance the large grouping of people in the mid ground on the right hand side Because the grouping of the man that is standing on the Left along with the woman seated on that side are larger in mass , they balance the grouping of the three people in the foreground on the right.

8. Use variety in Contrast

Contrast is used to bring the viewer’s eyes in and out of this. It’s done to bring forward or send back different elements of the picture.

I’ve changed the image to greyscale so that you could see that the composition is 1/3 dark and 2/3 light and is a low contrast composition. I think that this adds to the overall mood of the painting… it is late afternoon, everyone has been satisfied with food and drink and the festivities are drawing to the part of the evening where groups and pairings often happen and there are subtle dynamics taking place. How the hands of some are just barely touching… and who is talking with who. And who decides to just sip her last bit of drink and ignore what is going on around her.

9. Texture

The impressionistic painterly style provides a soft texture to the entire picture and I think sets the mood for this painting. There are very few hard edges in this piece and the soft vegetation impression in the background give it a peaceful and calm appearance. To me it’s hard to talk about texture without going right into mood!

Well said! I love the highlights on the glasses, the folds in the clothing, the fur of the cat, the laciness of collars, the smoothness of the fruit.

10. Consider mood and colour

The warm colors (browns, rust) in this give the painting a warm, cozy feeling. The blues also add coolness to the picture to balance the composition. In addition, looking at the people’s faces in the picture give the impression that it’s a very calm and delightful afternoon being together.

Excellent observations!


Assignment Unit 6: Week 3
– Create 4 thumbnail sketches
– Choose a thumbnail sketch to develop further


Hi Tannis! Here is my next assignment. It’s interesting that as I have gone through these lessons, I am continually challenged. It’s really hard for me to come up with something to draw from my own imagination. I do so much better looking at something that I want to draw or paint. So many times I don’t want to do what’s next because it’s hard! I keep wanting to rely on what’s comfortable or what’s familiar. But if I just take some time and keep thinking and planning it starts coming.

I’m always curious about how many people drop out of this course because of the level of rigor that’s required. I certainly have felt many times like just not doing it. But I want to learn this and I would never forgive myself for giving up. I’m sooooo close! Anyway, I feel like have have broken through a little block I was having and am ready to finish this!

Practice thumbnail sketch ideas

Practice thumbnail sketches


Hi Sheila, Composition is such a huge area of study and it is so important… you are now at the point that your technical skills are outstanding but what will put you above and beyond is how you compose:) It doesn’t matter what the ideas are… it’s all in how you present them so that the artwork is well balanced. Overall, you did an awesome job with your composition structures. I have a few suggestions for you… Please see the video comment below.

You know some there are certainly some people who don’t finish the course but mostly people are committed to learning to draw. You’ve set yourself a very rapid pace so that may be why if feels rigorous:) Many students take 2 years to complete it. In my experience, the students who don’t complete the course lack confidence and are perhaps perfectionist. Perfectionism can be debilitating, unfortunately. It definitely takes perseverance and tenacity… as you’ve already discovered 🙂 You are doing great 🙂

You’ve mentioned that you felt challenged doing these exercises because you find it hard to draw from your imagination. You are exactly right… it just takes time to think and plan 🙂


Assignment Unit 6: Week 4 – Choose an art style and create an artwork


Here is my next assignment. I did enjoy doing this. I decided to pick the hard edge semi-abstract as it’s not something that I would normally do on my own.

Your feedback for the last assignment was really helpful. Sometimes reading the instruction for the exercise doesn’t always make a lot of sense to me but hearing what you say for feedback helps to clarify a lot! I don’t know yet what style I will use for the next assignment, probably realistic. Have a good rest of your week!


Hi Sheila… Love the colors you’ve used to create your boggley eye bob! They work well together and they give him form 🙂 Excellent! Your application of coloured pencil is awesome as well! I have a few suggestions for you… please see the video comment below.

Assignment Unit 6: Week 5  – Draw your thumbnail


Hi Tannis! I decided to use a different thumbnail for this week. This is the waterlily with some of the changes that you had suggested. I probably put more detail in this than what exercise called for but I sure enjoyed creating this. It’s more of a combination of realistic and expressive art style. Ok, I’m off to plan my final project for Unit 6!!!!!


Hi Sheila… I love this! Its a gorgeous artwork… love the colors, and the use of repetition. The mimicking of the shapes in the water and the lily pads is brilliant! I just have a few small suggestions for you… please see the video comment below. Have fun with your final project…


Final Project Unit 6: Weeks  6 and 7 – Compose and create an original artwork


HI Tannis!!!!! Ok here is my final project.

The Dinner Guest
11 X 15 on #140 Saunders Waterford hot press

Here was my process and I broke a whole bunch of rules!

Heart and Soul

I had so many ideas of what I wanted to accomplish and many thumbnails I had been working on. One I really, really wanted to do has a woman’s face and leaves for hair and she is really part of a tree. I’ll still do that, but it didn’t fit into the category of Still Life, Landscape, or Interior. Well my final doesn’t really either but maybe is a little closer?

Anyway, I was searching for photos to get ideas and found several fish that caught my eye from Paint My Photo. One in particular, a mandarin fish, looked so comical that I knew that I had to do something with him. Then I found 4 more fish that I wanted to include because they were so colorful. So I had 5 colorful fish that I had found that I wanted to use.

Planning Stage

I used my computer to plan my composition rather than drawing a thumbnail. With the fish, I removed the backgrounds that were originally in the picture so I could isolate the only the fish. Then on my computer I could move and adjust sizes easily to find the arrangement of what I wanted. It just didn’t look like it would work with the composition. So after I arranged my fish, I started on the drawing. I decided to have some parts of the fish to be outside of the border to add more interest. Then I started the coloring. After working a little bit something started to bug me. I the back of my mind I could hear your voice. What is this picture trying to say? I had these comical and beautiful fish all kind of looking at each other and felt that something was missing. It needed to have more of a focus. Then I decided to add the dinner guest! That helped to bring the picture together and it created a story.

Rules Broken

I’m not sure that this really fits into any of the themes for Unit 6 but I went with it anyway. Underwater still life?  Nontraditional thumbnail. Picture outside of the border. I’ve done this a few times on some paintings and really liked the effect.

Ok, I think that is it!!! I can’t believe that I’m done!!!! This has been a huge accomplishment. I have put so many things to the side because I wanted to complete this course. I have learned so much and know that I will take everything with me. You have been such a tremendous mentor to me Tannis. Your thoughtful and kind feedback has been so helpful as I have progressed throughout this course. I have learned so much from you but also know I have so much more I need to learn.


Congratulations Sheila!

This is beautiful! I love the color scheme and the fish are so interesting… beautiful shapes and textures! The addition of the worm is excellent… you learned alot in the creation of this artwork and I’m so pleased that you heard my voice nagging you:) … because adding that one small thing brought the whole artwork together. It became more than a collection of interesting looking fish:)Your artwork tells a story and your title brings it all together! So proud of you! This is a huge accomplishment and a breakthrough for you 🙂 I know it is just the first of many amazing artworks you’ll create. Your understanding of composition is what will set you apart from other equally technically proficient artists. Many otherwise proficient artists don’t understand how to compose artworks 🙂

Wow… you’ve completed your complete course in record time. I know how much time and effort you’ve put into it, you really wanted this and you did it! Learning to draw as well as you can takes a tremendous dedication. You’ve shown perseverance, tenacity as you courageously made your way through and its been my absolute pleasure to walk along side you. You are amazing!

I will prepare your graded document as usual:) I’ll send it as well as your unit 6 certificate of completion by email in the next week or two. Cindy will prepare your overall drawpj certificate and she’ll mail that to you. It’ll take her a bit of time but I’ll keep you posted and will let you know when she mails it. Can you send me your mailing address?

Congratulations again! I’m gonna miss you:) Of course, you could continue on with the mentor program:) and if you’d like more info about that just let me know:)

Sending you a huge hug!

Extract from graded document

At the end of each instructor supported unit, the instructor grades the final project, provides a written critique and issues a certificate. Below is an extract from the graded document for Sheila’s final course project ‘The Dinner Guest’.


Congratulations Sheila on the successful creation of this wonderful, original artwork. I love the bright colors that you’ve used… the fish are so interesting to look at and they exude personality. We can see who is going to eat and who isn’t.

Thank you for sharing your heart and soul stage with me and I smiled when you said you could hear me telling you to put something interesting into a focal point area. Your little worm fit in beautifully!

Overall, your composition is very good. Your color scheme is lovely, it is bright and fun; creating a mood of playfulness! Your artwork is well balanced with a variety of mass sizes.

You’ve used direction in line and repetition of shapes and colors to bring me to the focal point. If anything, perhaps more space could have been created between the worm and the two fish on the left. The purple line is the primary eye path. I like how you’ve used several strong directional lines along with contrast, and complementary colors to lead my eye in from the bottom left quickly to the worm on a hook.

My eye darts quickly back and forth between it and the largest fish and I like that you’ve created some tension between the two. Perhaps more space could have been created between the worm and the two fish on the left. This could have been achieved by moving the bottom fish down and to the left more so that it is slightly out of the composition. I think this would have put even more focus on the fact that the dominant fish was going to get to it first. Just something to think about.

The pink lines show many of the other directional lines that keep my eye in the art work and moving around the image taking in all the intricacies. I especially like how you’ve used a strong curve in the upper right side to keep my eye in the artwork. The strong directional lines could have easily led me out. Excellent work. Bringing some of the elements outside of the format can add depth and interest but it can also lead us out and so that is something to consider.

This black and white image shows that your composition is 1⁄3light and 2⁄3dark and is well balanced with large and small masses.

Your application of colour pencil pigment is beautiful! You’ve created some very nice textures in your drawing. I love the translucent look of the fish in the bottom left corner. The repeated shapes and the way you’ve used the green in the background has united the image.

Overall, your coloured pencil application is excellent. There are just a few areas like at the letter A, where tones can be smoothed out. You can lighten that dark tone using your putty eraser or magic tape and then use soft delicate circular motions with a blunt tip to refine.

Sheila, I am so proud of what you’ve achieved in the Complete Drawing Course. I admire your tenacity and your passion for art. I know this is just the first, of many original Sheila Perry artworks!


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