We look around us and see a beautiful arrangement of forms. The scene, whether it is in nature, a grouping of objects, such as a still-life, or a figure, catches our eye. We decide to draw or paint what we see.
Often though, we don't take the time to analyze what it is about that scene that is actually catching our eye. Our brain tells us that it is the object that is interesting - the tree, the basket of fruit on the counter, the person sitting at the café table. So we jump in and before we know it we're drawing or painting little, tiny details and we haven't even considered our end product - the finished drawing or painting.
We have to train ourselves to take time to consider our options, plan the execution, and create a beautiful structure upon which our work is built. This is composition.
We take a few minutes to do a few thumbnail sketches. These are small sketches, about 2" x 3", that give us the opportunity to experiment with placement and focus. These sketches should be very simple (no detail) and done quickly. Then we create a notan sketch to analyze the overall light and dark massing of the view we are most interested in taking to completion. At this point, we've simplified our scene down to two values - black and white. We can now see the balance and movement inherent in our scene and we can ask ourselves if it is a good design. Is it dynamic enough, or is it a bit boring? Is there a sense of harmony, beauty, movement in the design?
This is where we can, and should, make adjustments and consciously design our end product - BEFORE WE EVEN START!