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Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting (Mastering (North Light Books)) Hardcover – November 29, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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  • Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting (Mastering (North Light Books))
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ian Roberts has been painting for over 40 years. His father was a painter and Ian accompanied him on painting trips from the time he was ten. He attended the New School of Art and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. He studied figure painting in Florence, Italy. He has taught plein air painting in Provence, France and Tuscany, Italy, as well as in the U.S. through his school Atelier Saint-Luc, named after the patron saint of painters. Ian shows in the U.S. and Canada, is an artist member of the California Art Club and a signature member of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association. He is the author of the book Creative Authenticity and created two videos, "Mastering Composition" and "Plein Air Painting". He is a popular workshop instructor specializing in composition. He lives on Georgian Bay in Ontario Canada.
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Product Details

  • Series: Mastering (North Light Books)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: North Light Books; Har/DVD edition (November 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581809247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581809244
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This author/painter makes essential points for understanding painting composition, one of the budding artist's most allusive challenges.
But what sets this book apart is its brilliant teaching methods. As an example, among several possible, is the DVD that accompanies the book, in which the author gives the reader a tour of paintings, showing in each what happens when he changes something. Thus the reader gets to see the effects of the changes, experiencing them in a hard-hitting way.
If you're struggling with composition, this is a good book for you. If you know composition, it is still an excellent review.
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Format: Hardcover
Artist and author Ian Roberts has given us a gem of a book with his recently published "Mastering Composition." This book is an outgrowth of two events in Roberts life. As a child, Canadian Roberts joined his dad and his dad's artist friends on an annual plein aire painting trip to the United States. At the end of each day, the painters discussed and criticized one another's work. Much of the discussion centered on composition - "foregrounds were too cluttered," what works for the eye in the painting, and what does not.

Then, later, as a professional artist and teacher, he noticed that most of his students created paintings that were superficial and "looked like postcards." He decided to focus on getting his students to use their creative core and think "behind" the subject matter: "think first about shapes, their arrangement in the picture plane; and the visual flow being created in the painting."

"Mastering Composition," according to Roberts, could have just as easily been titled, "Shapes, Shapes, and Shapes" with the subtitle, "Their arrangement, interaction, and flow on the picture plane."

The book begins with an excellent discourse on what composition is and how one can use the book to grow as an artist. He is insistent on self-directed study which includes doing one composition (sketch) per day for one year. The book is very well written, includes practical rules to follow, and is illustrated with plenty of before and after demonstrations, as well as examples from Masters of the 19th and 20th Century.
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Format: Hardcover
I've enjoyed Ian Roberts' work for many years now so I was excited to read instruction from such a seasoned artist. I was right in assuming he'd be able to shed new light on old tricks and overall I felt he translated his talent wonderfully into words. "Learning to master composition means learning to see abstractly," he says. It's advice I've never heard before but throughout the book he illustrates this idea by guiding you to focus on rather basic, foundational techniques to become a better painter.

I've read a lot of books aimed to improve your painting abilities but none have really spoken to me like this one did. I wouldn't call myself an amateur painter but I'm not master either. That said, Mastering Composition appealed to me as it's aimed at the intermediate painter like me. I also found it to complement splendidly the lessons that I learned from The Painter's Secret Geometry: A Study of Composition in Art.

One of the other reasons that I loved the book was this was well laid out. The step-by-step demonstrations were very easy to understand and follow, and the pictures helped to clearly guide you. The fact that there was also a DVD included in the back appealed to me too. While the DVD repeated a lot of things covered in the book it appealed to my different syles of learning and helped me absorb the information better.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book that I will refer to for many years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
Ian Roberts' "Mastering Composition" is the perfect instruction book for a painter like myself who needs to strengthen his compositions. Mr. Roberts is a practiced artist himself, and one of the most articulate teachers I've come across. His exercises are organized, and detailed in a way that makes for productive results. I've owned the book for a month, and already feel I'm creating more intelligent paintings because of Mr. Roberts' insightful critiques and sensitive ways of seeing.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the stronger books on teaching the role of structure in images and building structure into one's painting. Anyone who introduces image structure by way of Charles Bouleau has a leg up in my estimation. Among painting instruction books that deal with composition, this is one definitely to add to one's reference shelf. And then borrow or ante up for Bouleau's book to see to what this author is referring.

This book is strongest at showing that decisions about structure need to be taken early in the painting process and, subsequently, how the painter can manipulate contrast to support the structure. Photographers can learn a significant amount from this book, especially in the post-processing phases.

The DVD is cleverly done and nicely imparts one lesson, that even slight changes in color anywhere in the image alter the contrasts in the image and either support or interfere with the artist's intentions.

This book is not a comprehensive look at structure in images from a theoretical standpoint. The author often does not specify what type of contrast he is pointing out in an image. But what he does cover he does very well.

This would be a good textbook with one of the few DVDs that actually does its job well. Many photographers would do well to own this book. Congratulations.
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