A Key Composition to Help Create Winning Painting Designs -the Circle

The circle composition is often overlooked by modern painters but has a historical basis in many masterpieces of the past. I am looking for alternatives to the over-used S, or winding Z curves that seem to be the default for many.


The above is a mini 5x7 on a homemade ground. It started with the thumbnail notan sketches, about four to a sheet of 6x9 paper. Several compositions were there but one started to exploit a composition that is controversial to some— the circle. As I said in my last post, mini paintings are a safe way to try out new ideas and while some will be saleable, some will not. But they are always successful in my eyes when I can say at the end, "What I Learned."


Multiple sketches lead to the above. It was not yet a good design but was close enough for me to adapt on the fly as I painted the pastel. The circle was not in the above sketch but I saw the above could be made into the circle composition. I think it was my darkening the sky, or the branches of the trees coming in from the sides at the top of the sketch that made me start to believe enough was there to start with the colors.


The Circle Controversy

As I blocked in the color, I began to close in the waterway more at the bottom. Near the finish, the bottom closed up even more, but not all the way. This is where the controversy begins. Many artists want to keep an opening as I did for the viewer to enter the painting and some say the circle is enough to make the eye keep moving around the design. History has masterpieces of both. As with any of the composition designs I try and that I write about, there still is a certain amount of judgement. Just learning and using the designs is no silver bullet.

What I learned

  • The tunnel and circle are similar

  • I can avoid a common error called the "keyhole" by not closing in sides too much


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Avon Waters
Modern Artist