Why This Works: Composing in a Square Format

“Passing Storm,” by Clark Mitchell, 2016, pastel, 6 x 6 in.

In this series, plein air painter and instructor Jeanne Mackenzie takes a look at new paintings by contemporary artists and points out why they succeed as painted images. This week, Clark Mitchell’s “Passing Storm.”

Square formats can be a challenge, and care must be taken not to have shapes too centered. These diagonal lines add great movement to the painting. As the shapes increase in size and volume, you envision the “bigness” of the sky. Even though the strong, warm orange colors of the clouds can be a powerful focal point, the chromatic spot of green gives perspective and scale to the painting and brings your eye down to earth.


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