Composition & Expression

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Pieter Paul Rubens, The infanticide in Bethlehem

Composition is the basis of every drawing or painting: the mise en scene or the definition of the type of painting, as well as whether it is exciting or a boring image. Composition is a consciousness that can be learned as follows: the first block explains how to approach a given surface. The second deals with geometric elements that play a role. The third block explains how to apply dynamically-moving elements, the fourth deals with the use of tonal values and color, to end with the kinds of drama that can be evoked by all these means.
Attached to each part is a practical assignment intended to imprint the subject matter well. The executed assignment gives access to the next lesson.
In addition, a practice program is offered, in which a number of basic painting techniques in oil paint and acrylic, which go back to the 17th century, among others, are explained. Starting with exercises in tonal values, continuing in the second study mixing colors by applying transparent layers on top of each other (glaze) or by direct mixing (palette). The third block deals with the art of ‘death painting’ (the underpainting), the fourth with how to work this up to end with various themes and how they fit in with various painting techniques.


The Composition & Ordinance course is divided into 5 modules of 5 lessons each, 25 in total.
They are two programs in one: a theory program and a practical program related to different methods, materials and techniques; both programs are completed with assignments.
After each fifth lesson a reflection takes place in a video conference.

Assignments and exercises
Each lesson deals with a different aspect of knowledge, to which an assignment is linked.
The practical exercises deal in more detail with methods, materials and techniques, also here explanations are connected with assignments.
The assignments (texts and/or photo’s of created work) are uploaded on the site and provided with comments within 4 days (in case of an unexpected delay consultation will follow within 4 days).
After receiving the comment on the submitted assignments, the next lesson can be opened.

In addition to commenting on results, the focus is on the development process. This will be further discussed during the reflection.
This takes place after each module of 5 lessons: student and teacher meet in a digital meeting and discuss progress together.

Free work periods
Five times a year, free work periods are scheduled in which no comments or reflections are made. These coincide with the (Dutch) holiday periods and last for a fortnight (in summer eight weeks).
It concerns the following weeks:
1: Week 7-8; 2: Week 17-18; 3: Week 27-34; 4: Week 42-43; 5: Week 52-53
Participants can use these periods to catch up on any arrears, or to expand training.
During one of these free work periods, an annual Practicum is organised in which participants can take physical lessons from international guest lecturers, possibly combined with a conference.
For this purpose, a separate entry should be made.

Programme overview

Module I:
Theory: General principles
About the construction and general principles of compositions. About balance and also the deliberate disturbance – and restoration – of balance.
Practical exercises: Research and exercises in tone values
We start with exercises in tone values (shades between light and dark) both in greys and in warm and cool colours.

Module II:
Theory: Geometric compositions
There are a number of geometric methods for compositions, even if you only see them at second glance (when you know how to look at them).
Practical exercises: Research and exercises in color mixing
In this module, different approaches and methods of colour mixing are discussed, as well as the differences in refraction of light and thus the optical effect: from glaze to palette.

Module III:
Theory: Dynamic compositions
Freer to more whimsical methods of composing are also possible. And it is precisely there that strict order is required.
Practical exercises: Research and exercises on old masters
Studying and working with old masters is a quick way to gain insight: we do this by reducing historical masterpieces to their basic forms.

Module IV:
Theory: Musical compositions
Similar elements play a role in all arts: principles we know in music also play a role in the visual arts.
Practical exercises: Research and exercises in construction
We are now using old masters as a trigger to come up with our own compositional variant. Images can be constructed spontaneously or methodically – or in between.

Module V:
Theory: Composition and ways of expression
Expression is the goal of all art – and many forms are possible. We examine some of the most important ones.
Practical exercises: Research and exercises on theme
Expression may or may not be linked to theme. It may or may not be related to themes, or it may or may not be related to different meanings or purposes. A number of these are being investigated in more detail.

If you are interested in this course you can first open the free trial lesson : Click here
Registration then will be done by completing the assignment and uploading the result.