Art tuition: Composing your Painting – spaces available

Composing your painting-art tuition-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

Composing your Painting (aka Basic Beginnings)

Hey! Did you know? There are still a couple of spaces available in Composing your Painting, running in February!

If you feel some confusion about the title of the course, that is understandable!
Since its launch, I have suspected that its original name implied Novices Only. But it is more inclusive than that. If you are an absolute beginner it would be a good place to start. But if you have tried painting, or even attended some classes in the past, this short-term tuition could give you a boost.

art tuition-composing your painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

Course content

These sessions will give a basic understanding of composition.
We will examine the ways that Form, Tone and Colour contribute.

Composing your painting-art tuition-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

My belief is that these three elements underpin the structure of a painting and that decisions about them determine the “success” of the final product.
Paintings CAN be composed differently, but this approach provides some criteria for creating your painting and analysing it as you go along.

art tuition-composing your painting-Philippa Robert-AdelaideSouthAustralia-beachpathway

Just a note here about Colour. That is a huge subject on its own but we will tackle it from the angle of colour temperature to simplify it for this context and for me!

Course format

My classes are in-person and in the studio. Classes are very small to allow for lots of individual attention. For “Composing Your Painting” there are a maximum of three participants.
There are three sessions of three hours each in this course, all held in my studio in Brighton, South Australia.


The total fee for this course is $100 (or $90 for subscribers).
The fee includes materials. More details here.

Class Dates

THURSDAYS February 9th, 16th and 23rd.


More hedges, more oils, more challenges

More hedges! I think I warned you how entranced I was.

And more oils. Yes, I am persisting.

Here are my two hedge paintings at Stage 1 several weeks ago.

More hedges-outdoor painting-landscapes-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-works in progress

More hedges – as works in progress

At the early stage shown here there are stark contrasts between the two. The painting on the left has a more dynamic composition while the other one has great colour interest.

As you can see below, the blue car and the hedge gained more definition last week. Despite it being a “front-on” almost ordinary sort of composition, I think the colour contrast made up for it. And further joy for me is in the juxtaposition of metallic and leafy. It’s another example of my interest in built and natural elements in a painting.

More hedges-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia- 2016

This one has a certain zing, doesn’t it? Bright blue cars have their advantages. After this I added a little more green (to the painting) with the overhanging bough of a mulberry tree.

more hedges-outdoor painting-landscapes-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-hedge and car2016
Hedge 2 (almost complete)

The challenge will be to make them as exciting as each other. In theory it is best to choose a dynamic composition with great colour interest. Would that make it too easy? Or would it be a complete fluke? There is a bit of skill in choosing a composition and also skill in making one work. That’s what our Artistic License is for!

more hedges-outdoor painting-landscapes-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-hedge3-2016

Hedge 3 (wip)

With this one, I need to think more clearly about the tone. I am hoping for good weather next week. Good for thinking and good for painting. No strong wind please Hughie!

The February Challenge

Painting with black, white and greys. Hmm…no colour, that will take some persistence.

At least that’s what I thought at the declaration of the challenge. More than persistence, it took hard-headed perseverance. Remember that trick sentence teachers slipped into grammar tests? “The boy made his way into the impenetrable jungle.” Impossible. That’s what it felt like.

Today I painted my third monochrome. I have really tried to get the most out of this challenge.

My first was from a photograph of some tourists on Calton Hill Edinburgh.


It seemed to turn out quite well but working from a photograph felt like an easy way out. I needed to be tougher on myself.

For the second painting, I chose to work from ‘life’ and a view of brush fences, concrete and grey brick presented a possibility. It  was a view from the balcony of the neighbour’s front yard. (Sshhh)! Sort-of en plein air.


The composition is totally dominated by that jolly kayak and the pale fence because I laid it down fairly literally. The brush fence was difficult to render and it made me see that large flat areas were not the answer. The proportions of the two fence panels on the left are too similar. This is an unfinished struggle.

So, I had worked on people from a photo, and some hard-edged forms. For the third work I needed to pit myself against more organic forms. Do you hear words of battle?

It was not the lack of colour, although I was dying to take refuge in some greens. The nub of the challenge lay in the discipline of seeing tonally and translating it into form and line. Of course that is what the real pro’s do in plein-air-land as a matter of course.

Preliminary drawing


After about an hour and a half I was ready to give up. I knew this reaction. My tennis court behaviour. 40-love up when I’m serving usually ends up with the opposition winning the game. Self-sabotage? Perhaps it is just giving up. I really thought about it, talked aloud to myself. Not this time. Hot coffee and back to work.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
“Ungreenery” with camera’s white balance adjusted

This is my year for learning new skills and brushing up some old ones. It promises to be painful as well as enlightening. A bit like learning to serve properly/reliably in tennis when the old habits work most of the time. My tennis ‘career’ is almost over, so I won’t bother with those lessons.

And by the way, did you notice it is almost May? I think these challenges could be quarterly rather than monthly.


The November Challenge

November? You might well ask…….

Lots of exciting ideas came to mind when my colleague and I agreed in August last year to take on a monthly challenge. Time? Not really a problem – it would be relatively easy to find 3 or 4 hours a month. November was getting towards the busy time of year so completion in December/January was predictable. By late January things were at Stage 2. And then, it was March.

The challenge was to paint with white and three colours: burnt sienna, phthalo blue and cadmium yellow.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Stage 1 – no, it is not a poached egg

The first stage is rough but a little reminiscent of Vuillard. But I couldn’t leave it there. Is this a person? Is that a poached egg after all?

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Stage 2

More definition of the face and the items on the table-top. Adding another chair to add to the curves in the composition.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Stage 3 – le bon choix

Where is the main light source? A bit late for this perhaps. But still. It helped to pin down the floating cups and saucers (and meringues). The extra chair was a distraction leading out of the picture plane – had to go. Darker shadows on face and fabric, less hair over the shoulder. This is where I choose to leave it. Perhaps you would have stopped earlier (or later). What do you think?

It is surprising how little I used the yellow. That first meringue would have been a bit dull without it. I love blues and use them often but have avoided phthalo blue for quite a while. Because of its intensity it can dominate so easily. It does make some beautiful chromatic greys with burnt sienna and I was in a sort of heaven playing with those.

The next challenge has been on the table for a couple of months. I am catching up!

Thanks for visiting.