Learn Composition


Drawing Basics


Lesson Info

Learn Composition

You have all these things. A centered composition. I think this is what I'm gonna 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, it stays there. There's another term you'll hear a lot called the Rule of Three. This says when you lay things out, 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 much more pleasing, repetitive composition. But it'll interest your eye and you'll look at it for awhile longer. So that's one centered. There's Rule of 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 the viewer's eyes are just gonna go straight off the edge. All these composition things are like how you control how your viewer's eye travels around your paper. So, if you're into controlling your viewer (laughs). But it is more pleasing. If you're gonna do a landscape, you can do an S-curve. You can go like, "Oh, there's a path and it meanders," "and it walk around some trees" "and it goes over here and there's a mountain." So that's an S-curve. Not just paths straight up usually. 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, and it lets the viewer hop from place to place. Keeps their eye moving. So I'm gonna call this a triangle or a circle. Same thing with a focal point. It's like the centered one. You can have one big focal point. Somewhere. This big star. But you can tell, you should also look over here, there's some more little stars. And there's some more little stars. You can make a little composition but you do have a main focal point. You're not just giving your viewer this big old field to look at. And then there's cutting things off deliberately. Don't think 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. You can have another part coming off over here. You can take composition as far as you want to go. 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's this? This is my super quick sketch of the Mona Lisa. 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, and you'll see it come up. And it'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, let's see, it's gonna be like another square here or something, this continuously keeps making a square and rectangle, a square and a 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, there's the swirly, there's the first square, and here's the second square, and it keeps going and it hits all our eyes and our lips and our hands and our shoulders all in exactly the right way, it just keeps this mathematical swirly going on. Composition you can go simple and you can take it as far as you want to take it. 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 the trophy right in the middle. I'm gonna take it down. I'm gonna get some of my Saral tracing paper. This has graphite on one side, and tissue paper on the other side. So your hands are gonna 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 can be smaller. So 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 hardest pencil? There it is, my 2H is my hardest today. A lot of times in my studio I use a super fine ballpoint pen for this, but then the ink does kind of get a little smudgy and you don't have the option of flipping your paper over. So then you just transfer it on. Follow the lines. I'll 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. And we can go back and do to them, exactly what we did to our other drawing. We draw lines on our trophy, start cleaning everything up where we want it to be. But first let me put my dog on there. Get your dog on there how you want it. Now my dog's back legs were a little bit lower. So when I was doing my tracing on top of my photograph, I actually erased my dog's back legs, drew my dog a little bit more so I knew he was gonna fit on here, and then I came back and moved my tracing paper on my 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. That's one the great things about working with the tracing paper is that you can just do part of it and if you want your dog longer or shorter, and I can show you some examples later of how I really manipulated the image. Okay so here's my dog. I'm gonna put him on top. Trace my dog on there. So Clea 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 the end of your pencil. Perfect. It does come in all kinds of colors which are also fun. The reason it comes in all the colors is what if you're drawing on gray 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 leave the lines. Okay. Keep lifting it up and taking a peek what's underneath. Because like here, okay I forgot his eye. Right in the beginning I always lift it up after I've done just one line because it's very, very common to start tracing with your paper upside down. And then you just draw on the back of your 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! 


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.