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Exploring Color and Composition

Lesson 1 of 9

Class Introduction


Exploring Color and Composition

Lesson 1 of 9

Class Introduction


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

Hi, I'm Mary Jane Begin, author/illustrator, and professor at Rhode Island School of Design, and as a painter and illustrator, I know a lot about color, and I shared a number of those thoughts, ideas and expressions in the Color Fundamentals course, and I look forward to sharing this, which is about expression and composition. So one of the things you need to think about is storytelling and idea expression, and you need to be able to match your color with those ideas. So you know, knowing what colors symbolize, not just to you, but to other people, is a really critical element. You also need to understand what to do in terms of color palettes, and how to choose those color palettes, so we'll talk about that. The goal this course is really to get you to skills build with practical issues, and also understand abstract thinking with color. I will be sharing some amazing work from students, some of my work, and if you're interested, there will be information in the Bonus File, which we'll ...

share their websites. You can see more of their week. So we've got a lot to talk about. I'm gonna show you, with a slide presentation, the first part of the course, and then I'm gonna review, in an online crit, some work that was sent in, and I'm so excited about this, and talk about the issues of color by deconstructing what the strengths are, and what the weaknesses are for pieces that were shown to me and by doing that, we'll be able to analyze what the best part is, and what they can do to make the work even better. So we have a lot to do. Let's get started.

Class Description

Instructor Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and professor in the Illustration Department. Mary Jane will guide viewers through useful exercises and practices that help to solve both understanding the color they see and want to recreate, as well as exploring the art of inventing palettes that resonate with expression.

The course will be taught through showing concrete examples and a demonstration that deconstructs the “how to’s” for creating a palette that expresses a mood.

Mary Jane will cover the following topics:

  • Color as meaning: subjective, regional and universal
  • The power and illusion of light
  • Creating color studies
  • Choosing the right medium for color expression
  • Deciding on the palette that works best
  • Harmonizing a color palette
  • Expressing meaning with color focus
  • Pulling it all together to finalize an image
  • Experimenting with color through media and materials

The best way to observe color is from life, but analyzing and recreating an image from a photograph can be a very practical way to learn how to effectively interpret color. Please join this class to continue developing your understanding of color, composition, meaning, mood, and expression.



I have to say, this class and the companion class were very humbling. I assume I am not like most people who would watch this class in that I have no such artistic talent. I cannot draw at all (limited to "Spike" from TED Talks), but I had no idea such thought, imagination or ideology went into creating these designs. Professor Begin has an amazing presentation style, she is clear, concise and thoughtful. The subject matter was amazing and I can only see it helping me in evaluating my own work and taking a whole new perspective on art, light and evaluation. I highly recommend this class whatever no matter your creative bent. Thank you Creative Live for hosting this wonderful speaker.

Cassandra Bailey

Outstanding course from an engaging, skilled instructor. Mary Jane explains color and composition in a very clear, accessible way. She also puts theory into practice by analyzing a wide variety of illustrations and pointing out what works, what doesn't, the reasons why, and -- for the critique portion at the end -- ways to fix it. Highly recommend!


What an honor to be able to study anything Begin teaches. The depth and breath of knowledge she shares is astonishing, and she puts it in terms easily understood without diminishing it. How refreshing to be able to watch a brilliant professional, especially after seeing so many who show quick easy ways to fake art.