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Drawing Basics

Lesson 9 of 10

Learn Composition

Cleo Papanikolas

Drawing Basics

Cleo Papanikolas

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Lesson Info

9. Learn Composition

Lesson Info

Learn Composition

you have all these things a centered composition. I think this is what I'm going to do today. This is like you go to the flea market and you buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers and it's right in the middle and you're just like, I just want to look at that thing and maybe it has a nice background that's kind of stable stays there. There's another term you'll hear a lot called the Rule Three. This says, When you lay things out, it's a lot. You don't want to be totally balanced. You don't want to just do one here, one there teeter totter. If you do things in threes and you put them in thirds like, say, here's a flower vase. Here's another flower vase. Here's another flower vase. It just makes for a much more pleasing, repetitive composition that it'll interest your I can look at it for a little while longer, so that's one centered. There's Rule three. Another one is if you're doing a landscape, you probably don't want to do this and make a big old point that goes right off the edge of your...

paper, because then the viewers eyes just gonna go straight off the edge. A lot of all these composition things are like how you control how your viewers I travels around your paper. So if you're into controlling your viewer, you can. But it is more pleasing, like if you're going to do a landscape, you can dio a NASCAR if you can go like Oh, there's a path and it meanders and it walks around some trees and it goes over here and there is a mountain. So that's an S curve, not just paths straight up. Usually, um, another way to keep the viewer's eye moving around. Kind of like the rule of three is to put things in a circle. So you've got some objects. Here's one object. There's another object. There's another object. Maybe a few smaller objects. Just lets a viewer hop from place to place. Um, keeps me keeps there. I'm moving, so I'm gonna call this a triangle or circle. Same thing with a focal point. It's like this centered one. You can have one big focal point somewhere, this big star, but you can tell him you should also look over here. There's some more little stars, and there's some more little stars to make a little composition. But you do have a main focal point. You're not just giving your viewer this big oldfield toe look at um, and then there's cutting things off deliberately. Don't think that your object has to fit exactly in that rectangle. The whole thing. You can have part of it coming off like that. It's kind of interesting to have something. A little mystery can have another part coming off over here. You can take competition as far as you want to go. There are. I don't know if there are historians or what, but basically you'll hear this one a lot. And it's pretty cool if you get into it but might take a little more time than you have if you're just learning to draw and you really want to start getting your practice in Okay, who is this? This is my super quick sketch of the Mona Lisa. OK, there she is. She's got her hands folded. She's got her head cocked to the side a little bit. She's smiling. There she is. There's something called the golden mean. You'll see it come up, and that's really cool. But basically It's a Nautilus shell, and it's in a box. And if you make a square here and then you make house see, it's going to be like another square here or something. This continuously keeps making a square and a rectangle and a square and rectangle down into infinity. And people have studied all kinds of paintings famous masters and plotted the points on it. And it turns out that this Nautilus shell, if you lay it over all these famous paintings you get like, Oh, there's swirly! And then there's There's the first square and here's the second square and it keeps going, and it hits all her eyes and her lips and her hands and her shoulders all in exactly the right way, and just keeps this mathematical swirly going. I'm so composition you can you can go simple, and you can take it as far as you want to take it. Um, but I think for mine, I kind of like that vintage look, that it's gonna be a trophy. I'm gonna put it right centered in the middle. Okay, So, back to this. So here we go. I'm gonna put my dog right there. There's a trophy right in the middle and take it down. I'm gonna get some of my Sorrell tracing paper. This has graphite on one side and paper tissue paper on the other side. So your hands are going to get kind of dirty when you mess with it. I usually like to use a piece that's about the size of my art of my tracing, But I don't have to. It could be smaller. I'm gonna tear a little bit of that down, so it's just the right size. Okay, Place this on the page where you want it. Put this graphite side down underneath your tracing, and then you get your hardest pencil. Where's my house? Pencil? Peritus. My two h is my hardest. A lot of times in my studio, I use a super fine ballpoint pen for this. But then the ink kind of does feel smudgy, and you don't have the option off flipping your paper over. Um, so then you just transfer it on. Follow the lines. All hit a few of the highlights. Trace all those lines. Okay, Get the ellipses. Now, look, we've got that lovely innocent look to all of our ellipses. They're all wobbly. They're not quite lined up. We can go back and do to them exactly what we did to our other drawing. Drew our lines on our trophy, start cleaning everything up where we want it to be. But first, I'm gonna put my dog on there. Get your dog on their how you want it. Now, My dogs back legs were a little bit lower, So when I was doing my tracing on top of my photograph, I actually erased my dogs back legs drew my dog a little bit more, so I knew he was gonna fit on here. And then I came back and I moved my tissue, my tracing paper on the photograph on my IPad so I could get his legs to be up a little bit higher because I wanted to make him look like he was standing on the trophy. It's one of the great things about working with the with the tracing paper is that you can just do part of it. And if you want your dog longer or shorter, can show you some examples later of how I've really manipulated the image. Okay, so here's my dog gonna put him on top. Trace my dog on there. So clear. When you are using this transfer paper, are you able to erase it or draw over it? The marks that it makes onto your working surface? Yes, it is graphite. So it is exactly the same thing that's coming out of your then of your pencil Her. So it does come in all kinds of colors, which are also fun. The reason it comes in all the colors. This is what if you're drawing on great paper and this is not gonna show up, so then you'd use a different color. Sometimes I like to just draw with the colors and just leave the lines. Okay, keep keep lifting it up. I'm taking a peek. What's under underneath? Because like, Okay, here I forgot his eye bright. In the beginning, I always lifted up after I've just done one line because it's very, very common to start tracing with your paper upside down and then you just draw on the back. You're tracing

Class Description

Do you want to learn how to draw but don't know where to start? In this class, professional painter & illustrator Cleo Papanikolas shares fun, beginner-friendly drawing techniques that can turn anyone into an artist. This class will help you overcome your fear of the blank page and focus on putting pencil to paper so you can draw the way you always wished you could.

In this class, Cleo will cover the fundamentals in drawing including:

  • Using different pencils for line quality
  • Applying different shading methods
  • Practice measurement and proportions in your work 
Cleo will help you embrace imperfections in your work with step-by-step exercises that apply key drawing techniques. 

Join Cleo and get started drawing today! 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Line Quality


Lightbox Drawing Photos

Drawing Tools and Materials List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Rhonda Bender

This class is about two hours long. Overall it is a friendly and accessible approach to introducing some basic drawing techniques and tools that is appropriate for those who are nervous about or just novice to drawing. It lets the student jump in by tracing a basic outline which is then detailed. Towards the end the instructor demonstrates a more advanced type of tracing using a tablet as a lightpad, and there is also helpful information on how to trace one's own work to transfer it to better paper or slightly alter the drawing to be larger/wider/etc. The middle portion has overview information on types of lines and methods of shading. These aren't super thorough examinations of those topics, but should be ample to complete the exercises and drawings included and recommended in the class. Likewise, the overview of drawing tools and papers is an overview, but strikes a good balance between overwhelming with too much information, and giving students enough info to know what tools they need for basic drawing and how to use them. There is a brief overview of how to use the sight size method to draw freehand more accurately. This is a subject that could easily be an entire class topic on its own. Some will find this enough info to get going, others might prefer expanded information and more details on this. The more complex subject of ellipses in perspective is touched on only briefly. (Perspective is also a complex subject that needs a whole class of its own, so this is understandable.) In contrast to some other reviewers, I did not have a lot of issues with the filming and camera angles. A lot of time was spent on the angle of looking at the drawing in action. However, it is clear that material was edited out from the live version. The edited version doesn't follow the drawing of every exercise through to its conclusion, and sometimes segments end or start abruptly.


I like it. it's not very in-depth but it gave me the courage to start drawing, and I had so much fun. Great for beginners.

a Creativelive Student

There was a lot of good information in this course: types of shading; analogue versions of digital tools like guidelines and centring. I had an ah-ha moment when Cleo talked about ellipses. That alone was worth the price of the course. I also loved the part about using a lightbox, as well as tracing and graphite papers as tools - but in a way that doesn't impinge on copyrights.