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Real World Composition for Landscape Painters

Composition remains the most elusive area of many painters’ practice. Why? Because its energies are abstract and often hidden beneath the narrative story of the painting. This class exposes these hidden energies and builds greater awareness of the foundational shapes that drive a composition.

Instructor: Mitchell Albala
Fine Art Painters
For Stage(s):
Aspiring, Emerging
Medium: Acrylic, Gouache, Oil, Pastel, Watercolour

Not sure what stage you are? Visit our How It Works page for details.

Starts on Friday, October 27, 2023
Oct 27 | Nov 3 | Nov 10 | Nov 17 | SKIP ONE WEEK — Dec 1
5 sessions, 2.25 hrs each, weekly
11:00am – 1:15pm MT


Note: Price in $USD

Out of stock

    Course Description

    This online course takes a “real world” approach to composition. Rather than applying a checklist of theories and principles to your paintings, we will only work with the energies and shapes that affect our compositions practically.

    Working from photographs with useful exercises in both black-and-white and color, weekly critiques, and analysis of master compositions, this class covers:

    Shape Identification: To take charge of your composition, you must be able to see it in terms of foundational shapes. Learn how to use the 3-value notan to define the major shapes of your composition.

    Variation and Differences: The key to dynamic and interesting compositions is variation. How do various elements differ from one another in their “pacing and spacing,” size, weight, and orientation? Learn how to apply each of these forms of variation.

    The Picture Window and Format: The rectangular window that serves as the boundary of our subject has a profound effect on the composition. It tells us what will be included, what will be left out, and how the major shapes relate to one another. How does format—horizontal, vertical, or square—affect the composition?

    Movement: Movement animates the composition. Learn about movement through diagonals, the difference between “direct” and “implied” pathways, circular movement, and how to diagram movement in paintings.

    Active Negative Space: Negative space presents itself differently in landscape than it does in still life or figurative painting. Negative space is often the sky, large bodies of water, or wide open fields. Learn four methods of “activating” these spaces to ensure they are fully integrated into the composition.

    Supply List

    PDF supply list provided closer to class start.

    Instructor Bio

    My work has always been driven by three visual imperatives: the inherent abstraction within nature, pattern, and unified light.

    A painting can reach a viewer in different parts of their mind. One part responds to things we can name like houses, trees, clouds, and the narrative itself. Another part responds to aesthetics such as color, shape, or movement. This is the part of the mind I want to reach. I consider a picture most successful when the viewer is struck by these aesthetics before they recognize the actual subject.

    Color harmony is a core instinct for me. The landscape, with its atmosphere and unified light, is an ideal subject with which to pursue this interest. If I cannot make all the colors in the painting feel as if they are bound together through a unifying color of light, then I will not consider the painting entirely successful. In my work, this cohesiveness often is often achieved with a very limited palette. Each of my paintings also has a distinct color chord, which is meant to capture a particular color of light or time of day.

    In my current work, the Azure and Asphalt and Rooftops series, I bring my interest in unified light and pattern to the urban landscape. These works explore the abstract patterns formed by reflected light on the streets and rooftops at sunset. In these works I strike a delicate balance between simplification and detail: I have to include enough visual cues to make it clear to the viewer that it is an urban landscape, but few enough that it doesn’t distract from my primary interest, which are the abstract patterns and the light.


    How many registrations are required for a course to start?

    A minimum of 6 registrations are required.  If 6 registrations are not received by the time the course is 24 hours from starting, the course will be cancelled and all registrants will receive complete refunds.

    What is the maximum number of people in a course?

    This varies for each course.  The maximum number of registrations is decided by the instructor.

    Can I get a refund?

    Up until 24 hours before a course’s first session you can receive a complete refund. You can cancel your registration via the My Account portal, or by contacting

    After this time no refunds will be given (if you have extenuating circumstances you believe justify a refund, contact us at

    Can I register for a course already in progress?

    No. Once a course has started, no new registrations are accepted.

    Where will my course be held?

    All courses meet online over Zoom. You will need a device equipped with a camera and a microphone to fully participate. 

    If you have not used Zoom before, learn about how to use it here.

    If you don’t regularly use Zoom, we recommend you join your first session 10-15 minutes early in case your computer needs to install or update Zoom.

    How do I join my course?

    You will receive a welcome email from when you register.  This email includes the Zoom link to join your course session.  You will also receive 24 hour and 2 hour reminder emails before each session, and each of these emails includes the Zoom link.  You can also access the Zoom link to join your course in your MastriusChat group.

    Are the sessions recorded?

    Yes, every session is recorded and are typically available 24 hours after a session ends.  All session recordings will remain available for the duration of the course, and for one month following the last session.  The recordings are viewable within the MastriusChat platform, and cannot be downloaded.

    What if I miss a session?

    You’ll be able to watch the session’s recording.  If you have questions the recording doesn’t address, you can ask them in the chat feed of your course’s private MastriusChat group.

    What is MastriusChat?

    MastriusChat is an online discussion platform.  You and your fellow course registrants will be assigned to a private MastriusChat group where you can connect and support eachother via the chat “feed”. Your group is also where you’ll access the session recordings. Other resources in your MastriusChat group include a link to join your course sessions, and a library your instructor can use to share resources.

    What is a Navigator?

    A Navigator is an artist who joins your course to ensure both instructor and registrants have an enjoyable experience. They support (as required) with technology, timekeeping, moderating questions, and between-session discussions on MastriusChat. The Navigator has also joined the course as participant, and just like you, they’re wanting to grow their skills and learn the material.

    I’m not ready to register because I still have questions. Who do I contact?

    We’d be happy to help! 

    Reach out to us at and we’ll do our best to support you.