Painting Composition Workshop: Online

Taking Charge of Your Painting Composition with Judith Simonian Taking Charge of Your Painting Composition with Judith Simonian
Taking Charge of Your Painting Composition with Judith Simonian

Cost: $550.00

6 online sessions

Saturdays, October 17–November 21

11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Instructor: Judith Simonian


Composition is the frequently overlooked component in a 2-D artwork that can make or break an otherwise successful painting. This online ZOOM class will examine how well known artists effectively use principles of composition to keep us actively engaged in looking and enjoying their work. Through class projects students will learn how to master these concepts in their own work.While much compositional knowledge is intuitive, learning how to recognize and use spatial principles such as rhythm, balance, unity, focal points, directional movement gives you powerful tools that can keep the viewer interested in looking at your artwork or look away in
boredom or confusion.

Class projects executed in the water medium of your choice (i.e. watercolor, gouache or acrylic) students will become aware of how the placement, size, repetition and distribution of shapes, colors, lines, and texture can effectively direct the movement through the pictorial space. Students will recognize the power of high and low value contrast areas, contour continuation and perspective lines in their own work and how it can direct the viewer’s attention where it is wanted.

Extensive analysis of important paintings by Vermeer, Edouard Manet, David Park as well as contemporary artists Amy Sillman, Cristina Banban, and Carey James Marshall will help clarify these elusive concepts. We will see how the camera informed the compositions of Degas and how smart phones, digital cameras and charcoal sketches can be used for selecting and trouble shooting your own composition. Use of cardboard cropping guides applied to your artworks will reveal ways to make compositional adjustments and will be used extensively to demonstrate strength and weaknesses of your painting.

This class is designed for students at any level who have some experience in the paint medium of their choice. Subject matter will include still life material, interior or window views in your work area, and found or personal photographs.

This class will be conducted online with ZOOM so a computer or device with reliable internet connection and Zoom app installed is necessary.

Required Materials

  • Set of Paints–your choice–watercolor, gouache or acrylic. Whatever colors you have on hand–include plenty of white–discussion of colors for complete palette will be discussed on first day
  • Palette  
    • Pad of Disposable paper palettes (for Acrylics or Gouache)
    • Metal, plastic (for water color or gouache)
  • Brushes–your choice plus one inexpensive large flat brush at least 2” wide
  • Water containers (3)
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Small drawing pad about 12”x15” or smaller (NOT newsprint)
  • 2 Sheet of Arches Water Color Paper (or other good quality paint paper) 140# 22”x30” hot press (smoothest), cold press (more “tooth” or texture)
  • Ruler
  • picture framing paper mat or white lightweight cardboard mounting board (Staples has this)
  • mat knife or exacto blade and surface to cut on (e.g. heavy cardboard)
  • vine stick and compressed charcoal
  • Photographs - Black and White, color (5 or more ) of something you want to paint
  • Color wheel


Registration for this workshop will open on September 8.

Course Code: PAINT6

Instructor(s): Judith Simonian

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.