Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Thoughts on Composition

Often composition is equated to planning, as if you could compose first (i.e. plan out the painting) and then paint, or execute the plan. Some artists and teachers use the terms Design and Composition interchangeably,both meaning to plan. And this approach works for many artists, but not for me. 

Take a look at my Technique Takeaway coming up, Composition as Process.


Pink Shape, 9x12"


This sense of composition may be analogous to a piece of music that is written out before it is played, a music composition. The way that I paint is more like an improvised solo - I make it up as I go along. But that does not mean that it not a composition. 


Stripe Collage #4, 11x14", "You can't make this stuff up"; well, yes, you can. What you can't do is plan a piece that ends up like this one. You have to find it in the process of making it.


Throughout my process of painting, I am engaged in the act of composing. The visual elements and their relationships to one another change many times during the course of creating a painting. The composition is in constant flux until it isn’t. The composition of the finished painting (if it finishes, which not all my paintings do), is an unknown until it reveals itself through the process of composing. 

Sunshine Stripes, 11x14", Even a very structured composition goes through many changes in its evolution towards a finished piece. Sometimes people mistake structure for planning.


Rising by the Second, 20x20"


  1. Great explanation of composition, Jane. Thanks!!

  2. Wow. You have always been the best instructor for me. You speak a language I can understand. I have been thinking about these concepts and you expressed it so clearly and cleanly. Thank you!

  3. This is a great explanation Jane. 👍

  4. What I love about your work is the random cohesiveness of it. It is very honest and true to itself. Thank you for sharing your process for all of us who need to learn that it is okay not to know how it ends.

  5. Thank you Jane! That was helpful.

  6. Thank you for your way of creating art. I do this, too. I have artist friends who think I am nuts for not devising a fairly completed plan before picking up a brush or choosing a color. They are uncomfortable working without their safety net I guess and that's perfecty OK for them. I like making decisions on the spot based on marks, shapes, and patterns I have created. Action-Reaction! Repeat. In the past when I have created with the end-product in my mind I looked back and wondered why did I even bother. It NEVER looked the exact way I envisioned it and I was ALWAYS disappointed. Working this way makes my journey so much more exciting and ultimately fun! I like not knowing what it will look like until it's finished. Thank you for your support in affirming this way of working that works for me.

  7. Jane Davies, my art hero, and chicken lady too. I learn so much about your process from your YouTube vidz, and I also have your books and DAD. Maybe one day an in-person workshop. Want to learn more about sanding.


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