Posts Tagged ‘Elements of Great Composition’

My Teaching Philosophy, part 3: On artistic principles

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

It is important for serious students of art to understand basic artistic principles.  The more of those principles we understand, the easier it becomes to optimize our own work, no matter what medium we use.  And the greater appreciation we gain for the mastery of great artists we might otherwise overlook.

Although I do try to incorporate and discuss many of the principles in my classes, in conjunction with lessons on watercolor technique and during our subsequent coaching sessions, I can’t cover them all.  The spectrum of artistic principles is far too broad to allow me to cover everything comprehensively in the few short class sessions that I teach in our community every winter.

A brief overview of the principles applying specifically to artistic composition is available in my ebook, Elements of Great Composition: A Quick Reference for Photographers and Other Visual Artists.  Needless to say, there are many additional principles besides these that need to be learned, regarding use of color, creating the illusion of form, perspective, and so on.

Final-EGC-Cover-(small)Any self-taught artist who is serious about improving his or her work and learning to appreciate the finer aspects of art in general, would do well to seek out a comprehensive course that goes beyond the “tips” offered by many popular teachers for using a specific medium.  It should provide both a firm foundation of artistic principles and at least an overview of the development of various artistic styles throughout history.   I used the Virtual Art Academy, an online, self-paced course, to fill this gap in my own belated artistic education.  It is just such a comprehensive program, and I have found the training invaluable for my own artistic development.

My point is that, as artists, we should be continually seeking out opportunities to learn many different aspects of art.  These will gradually coalesce and contribute to a personal style by providing us more tools and information from which to draw as we strive to express our unique artistic vision.

As you settle into 2017 and envision the year unfolding ahead of you, challenge yourself to seek out some form of continuing education to both reinforce and extend your current understanding and level of mastery in whatever area your creative passions may be.

Entitled to celebrate!

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

I’m delighted to announce the release of my latest book, Elements of Great Composition: A Quick Reference for Photographers and Other Visual Artists. It’s now available in e-book format at!


It’s a long title for a compact little book that overflows with information to strengthen your artistic and photographic compositions.

I hope you will join me in celebrating its advent! As a special introductory offer and especially as thanks to my closest followers, I am making it available at NO COST on Sunday through Thursday this coming week only (based on Pacific Standard Time).

Knowing that so many friends were out there, waiting with bated breath (or not), kept me at the task. So thank you for your encouragement.

Feel free to tell your friends about it, too, so they can take advantage of the free offer while it’s available. Even if they miss this special introductory promotion, they may be interested anyway. So please spread the word!

If you should choose to download the book for yourself, I hope you will leave a review on Amazon so other potential readers can more easily determine if it will suit their needs. It would be a great service to both them and me.

Should you prefer to offer constructive criticism in a more private format, you’re welcome to email me through the contact page on this website. (Be sure to write “Composition” in the subject field.)

I will value your feedback.

From drawing board to Kindle

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Coming soon, for an e-reader near you…

The manuscript is finished and polished, and illustrations are in position. I’ve been struggling to get the files uploaded for Kindle, converted, and previewed to verify a satisfactory presentation, then tweaked, and uploaded again to go through the conversion and verification process again, and again, and again….

Will it eventually cause me to leave my perfectionist tendencies behind? Probably not. Though my increasing frustration level could definitely be a determining factor.

My concerns about why some of the chapter headings inexplicably justify to the full page width, while others don’t, may seem inconsequential to many readers. But, as a former book editor who has professionally designed numerous textbooks, I find it difficult to overlook major editorial glitches and glaring inconsistencies. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that these, like many other aspects of e-formatting, are out of my hands.

Other issues, such as image sizing and positioning (and even the opening page…despite having clearly designated a starting point), are apparently totally beyond my control. So, to paraphrase the serenity prayer, “God, grant me the perspective to accept the things I cannot change, perseverance to change the things I can, and the perception to recognize the difference.”

Having also attempted to verify the appearance on as many different Kindle and mobile devices as possible, I have been astonished at the differences that show up. And I’m afraid that most of these inconsistencies will be unavoidable, since they appear to be due to coding peculiarities introduced in the KDP transpositions rather than anything I do (or don’t do) in formatting the manuscript.

I do understand that page proportions, line length, and page length must change from one kind of device to another, resulting in different page breaks, depending on the reading device used. But I had supposed that there should be some logic and consistency in alignments, and in whether a line is justified (stretching out the words and sometimes individual letters to fit the page width) or simply be allowed to remain unjustified before breaking onto the following line, even within an otherwise entirely justified paragraph. I find neither rhyme nor reason (nor can I get any explanation) for it. It just is.

Similarly, while I have taken into account the fact that some devices display in only black and white, and have tried to select images that can be read well both in black and white and in color, I would have expected images to at least maintain their relative proportions rather than being elongated when translated into narrower formats such as iPhones. Most devices show the illustrations almost the full page width (though indented to match paragraph indentions). Some devices proportion them down to a somewhat narrower width (and, in my opinion, they look better for doing so). So, depending on how your device configures them, … well, that’s just what it’s going to be.

I also recognize that, in many cases, fonts, font sizes, and justification can also be adjusted by the viewer, so there’s little point in expecting them to follow a single specification. But I would have supposed that basic text fonts would still look like … well, at least similar text fonts across the board. I obviously still have a lot to learn.

As I attempt to resolve those issues that are within my control, I am anticipating a release date on August 1 for Elements of Great Composition, to be available exclusively through Amazon. It’s taking me a while to ensure that it’s being published in as professional a manner as possible.

In my opinion, KDP is better equipped to publish books incorporating straight, unillustrated text than books heavy in illustrations, like this one. I must say, though, that, despite the inherent peculiarities of e-publishing, self-publishing through KDP is much faster (if not always easier) than the old, traditional publishing process.

For my readers, an additional benefit of opting for KDP is that, particularly for a book like this, with a high proportion of illustrations in relation to text, e-publishing will allow me to keep the pricing much lower than I could ever have hoped to in a hard-copy format. As it is, I’ll be able to make it available at a great value –for less than the cover price of many monthly magazines. So stay tuned!

Remember the target date: August 1, 2015!