Tag Archives: Nathan Fowkes

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 04

Our assignment for Week 04 is to create 6 original compositions with clearly defined focal areas, with the following restrictions:

  • 3 in colour, 3 in value only
  • 3 no people or characters
  • 1 no character or manmade objects of any kind

I confess, it is not easy to think up original compositions, because there are so many options. Even though I’m limiting myself to scenes from my fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, I still find that there are too many scenes I can choose from.

I would like to draw scenes from the first novel, but this morning as I was thinking about what I could do, a scene from the fourth novel entered my mind. I will not reveal too much about it, because it would spoil the story for those of you who would like to read it, but the scene itself is happening inside a forest. It is also inspired by the incredible fogs of Belgrade that I do not remember ever seeing in Toronto, Canada. I’ve read about London fogs, but I doubt that these are much better. Last night I stepped onto the balcony, and was shocked to find a cloud of white in front of my face.

The artist in me is fascinated by them, and I wish I had gouache or acrylic so I could attempt capturing them. As I was walking today near sunset, I kept wishing for my camera (though I doubt my camera could capture the majesty). The approaching fog took the sunset colours and dispersed them, making the whole world golden, pink, and violet. It was breathtaking. I kept humming La Vie En Rose as I was walking on a busy street filled with rush-hour traffic. 🙂

But let me get back to the assignment. We are supposed to create focal areas via contrast. Apparently all visual information can be interpreted by hue, saturation, value, and then texture and edge (which are components of the first three). It is natural for all of us to create contrast with value, but is it possible to use other contrasts to tell the story?

Fowkes suggest that there is. In his comments he kept insisting on us trying to crate hue contrast. This is what I attempted to do with this image, though after I placed it in grayscale, it still had some value contrast. I also tried to use texture vs. lack of texture, repetition (active vs. passive), contrast of local value, saturation, and lost and found edges.

Do you think I succeeded?

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 04 Assignment--Image 01

© 2015 MILI FAY ART | Concept Art: Warriors of Virtue. A character in the forest, while fog shimmers around her.

What kind of mood do you get from this image?


I have finally finished my assignment for Week 04: Pictorial Composition. Here is the result:

Schoolism: Pictorial Compositon Assignment 04

For the second image, I decided to play again with the hue contrast to create focus. This time, I believe I succeeded. I’m still struggling with deciding how much time I should put into each image. For the lady bug, I decided to use pattern brushes, and not bother with realistic colours at all. I had the idea as I was walking in the city and saw a pile of leaves on the pavement. Of curse the leaves were the fallen warm-coloured leaves of fall, but to make the contrast with the lady bug I had to make them green.

The third image is romantic. Somehow, I always associate romance with purples–the twilight colours. Here I used the X-marks the spot–everything leads to the kiss. I also used local colour with no shading, repetition, path (the sweep of the balcony). The male character is about to finish his transformation from a dragon into a human. I thought about adding sparks, but in the end I felt that may be overkill with the roses. What do you think?

Fourth image is one of the classic comps of move magic. The foreground character is looking to the background character who is the focus of this scene. He is further framed by the door in such a way that the lines almost suggest prison bars. The character in the foreground is blurred, while the focus is sharp on our leading man.

In the fifth image, the ducks are the focus. Initially, I envisioned a scene of rapidly moving river, hitting against a rock (The Little Mermaid style), where the rock would be the focus. Then the image got away from me. I was too tired to muster enough energy to create such powerful energy. You could say that the main tool I have used for this image is spot-lighting and empty area. I’m not very happy with this image, but sometimes, I just have to let things go.

The last image is a scene showing Emerald Lake, the home of Ness and Nessus in my novel Warriors of Virtue. I have tried to show a panoramic view with curvilinear perspective. Obviously the willow tree is the focus (though I apologize for the poor drawing of it). If you create a little thumbnail window with your hands (or paper) and drag it back and forth across the image you get a sense of someone looking left to right (or right to left) on the shore. The foreground blurred branches of some blossoming tree block our eyes inside, so they do not slide out of the picture. The value contrast and everything pointing towards the willow tree make it the focus of the scene.

I confess, while working on this assignment, I have been very tired. Let’s hope the next one inspires me a bit more. Working on Pictorial Composition Assignments is making me realise that I do not want to have anything to do with backgrounds. I’m clearly a character person. However, I hope that learning how to handle compositions and backgrounds will improve my illustrations in the end.

I’m also struggling with digital painting. I completely forgot how to blend, and I’m tired of having to invent brushes to get the textures that I want. Therefore, in the end I decided to forego blending and texturing the images.

Until next time: Cheers!


Posted in Schoolism, Uncategorized, Warriors of Virtue Also tagged , , , , |

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 03

Pictorial Composition Week 03 Assignment:“Create 10 original studies using value only. Your studies should be designed for a bold, clear statement. This exercise will help your work pack a punch as you strive to manage complex subject matter.”


After listening to Nathan Fowkes’ third lecture, I’ve begun to develop a insecurity complex.

He shares with us all of these wonderful artworks in truly interesting lectures. I go on to listen to his commentary of other student’s work, just to make sure I know what I’m doing. Everything seems manageable. Then, I begin to draw my assignment… and I’m lost.

I never know how much detail I should include. What is enough? What is too much? Does it even matter?

Questions keep swirling around my mind, because I have this obsession of pleasing my teachers that I’ve been carrying since Grade 6. In Grade 6 I immigrated to Canada, and somehow I thought: “If I was a perfect student, people would like me more!”

Regardless, here I am: an adult and still desperate to please people.

I’m drawing these lessons second guessing everything I’m doing. I berate myself for not taking the colour and light course first, because it seems there is a need for extensive color and light foreknowledge for me to create the assignment as my teacher would wish me to.

Then, Life, that cursed flowing thing that cares not for any woman’s plans, decides to mess with me and here I am: three weeks later still working on the Week 03 assignment.

I just can’t take the stress anymore!

So what do I do?

I give myself a mental slap.

Nathan Fowkes is a knowledgeable artist. I like his lectures, but he is not my God. Why should I please him? I’m taking these lessons to possibly improve my own work. No one is grading me on these assignments. Heck, I barely get any commentary on these assignments. So, I’ve decided to take it easy and enjoy myself. If I want to add in more detail, I’ll add in more detail. If I can create something with less detail, I’ll create with less detail. Am I doing these assignments correctly? Not quite sure, but I am getting my story telling point across and having fun. Since I’m not looking for work in a studio, that is all that matters.

Today, I have finally finished my assignment for week three. I think in took four days of work and three weeks.

All of these images are sketches of illustrations I’m thinking of creating for my novel, Warriors of Virtue. (Except the one of Legolas standing on top of the tree, that one is for FANtasy Character Designs.)

The image of Storm Rock surrounded by lightning and storms is my favourite of the bunch. I’ll use it as basis for one of the cover paintings for sure.

Without further ado, Assignment 03:

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Assignment 03

© MILI FAY ART | Nathan Fowkes Pictorial Composition Assignment 03

I’ve tried to create moods. Some have less detail, some have more. I tried to make some images graphic, some less so. The style may not be quite as cohesive, because I have not developed it yet, but these images get the story points across… At least I believe so. Also, the font I use for the cover page is just a mock up. Mili Fay will also be lower for the Kindle version. The image here illustrates the possible positon for the print version of the book.

Let me know which of the 10 you like best!




Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography


Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in FANtasy Character Designs, Schoolism, Uncategorized, Warriors of Virtue Also tagged , , , |

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 02

After another great lecture by Nathan Fowkes we received a new assignment: “Create 5 studies in value, use the principle of Unity with Variety as discussed in class to create meaningful relationships in the subject and the composition.”

The first time I’ve heard of “Unity with Variety” was in my 2D Design class in Sheridan College’s Art Fundamentals program. What this means is to create a work using various elements and principles of designs (variety) and make it into a single cohesive image (unity).

I won’t blame you if you are confused. I’m not sure I fully get the concept myself, even after Fowkes’ lecture and my years of art education. The trouble is that “Unity with Variety” is a principle of design, but it can also use both the elements and other principles of designs in its conception. For those of you who have no idea what Elements and Principles of Design are, I’ve written an article about them a while back. You can read it here.

The way I interpret this confusing concepts is: Draw with a plan to tell your story. A child, or a young artist may draw randomly, but an accomplished artist will always create with a plan, even if the plan does not follow reality. The elements of the picture that may seem random are usually positioned in a way to lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject or a story point. Sometimes, they are positioned in a way to lead the viewer’s eye to several story points in a single image. In my opinion, the greatest artists are the ones who can interpret complex subjects with a simple visual plan.

This is what I have come up with for Week 02 of Pictorial Composition:

Schoolism Pictorial Composition Week 02 Assignment

Schoolism Pictorial Composition Week 02 Assignment

All of these images have “Unity with Variety”, but are they the best that they can be?
I personally believe that there is always room for improvement in everything, so if you can see how the compositions can be improved feel free to let me know. I love constructive criticism, even when it is vicious.

Instead of drawing random compositions for this assignment, I’ve decided to create ones I can use for work. I’m writing and illustrating a fantasy novel, therefore my images are mostly limited to the vertical orientation—a challenge in itself. The top three images will be chapter covers, the bottom left is a conceptual piece, while the bottom right will be an ink illustration in the middle of a chapter. Though the assignment states “create five studies in value”, it does not state that they all have to be painted. Therefore, I have used the element of line to create values in the last image, since the final result in this technique offers better representation of the ink illustration to come.

The question I was asking myself as I worked is not whether my assignment will get a high mark (no one is evaluating these assignments), but: Is my image telling the story I want it to tell?

When Alfred Hitchcock was asked how he is able to create with such amazing direction, he replied that he does not show the audience everything, but only what they need to know at a given point in time.

This principle has been a guiding force in my work ever since I’ve read the story in college: What does my audience need to see?

So, let’s get to it!

Image 01

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 01

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 01

Story: Emerging from a dense forest into a circular field, Cornelian (the wizard), Artemis (the owl), and the three teenagers have reached the base of an enormous apple tree. Cornelian has just opened the secret door in the tree’s trunk. The day has been turbulent, but the sun has fought its way through the clouds and is bathing the tree with brilliant shafts of light.

Mood: Magical. Awe inspiring. Beautiful. Isolated. Secret.

This image will be painted in acrylic. What you see here is just a tonal sketch. Because this part of the story is not scary, I have decided to keep the overall values of the composition light. There is high contrast in the tree, but that is because the tree is the main subject of the image. The background on the other hand has been grouped in mid value. I have kept the composition central with a middling horizon line to give an almost symmetrical balance to the work. There are curved horizontal elements (clouds, forest, horizon, characters) contrasted by the strong vertical image of the tree. There is a repetition of apples, and foliage strokes to give the image rhythm, but nothing dramatic. I have not added other elements to the picture, because I do not want to create any distraction. I have not added a foreground element to give the image depth, because I feel creating an illustration of open space and vastness is more important.

As you can see I had a clear plan, and I believe that the variety of the pictorial elements have come together to create a unified composition: Unity with Variety.

Image 02

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 02

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 02

Story: Vert Swiftwing in dragon form is hiding and watching our heroes. If his eyes were closed the viewer would see nothing but the foliage. However, there is an actual dragon drawn underneath

the layers of leaves.

Mood: Mysterious. Nonthreatening, but with a potential to become threatening.

Because the mood is mysterious, I have decided to keep the value scale of the overall composition dark and close in value. There are no bright contrasting lights, because that would create a feeling of excitement and even danger. There are also no weird angles for the same reason. The rhythmic repetition of the foliage and flowers follows a circular pattern, working as a bullseye to focus the viewer’s eyes. There is a slash of the angular tree to keep the viewer’s eyes from spinning until they get dizzy. The darkest branches are separated in a widening pattern to create a moving direction–bottom right corner to top left corner. There are many subtle layers of foliage to create a feeling of depth, but also closeness. This moment feels intimate. The bright eyes have the greatest contrast to draw our focus and create an element of surprise.

Image 03

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 03

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 03

Story: An evil centaur king is threatening our heroine.

Mood: Fear. Imminent danger.

High contrast, angles, focus vs. out of focus,… I wanted the viewer to focus on his evil eyes, so even the fingers are pointing towards his face. The entire composition is uncomfortably close. The slash of light is almost like a slash of a sword. The gentle horizontals of the position contrast with the vertical of the subject, and angles of the hands, ears, mouth… I may wait to finish the lectures on lighting before actually painting this image if the time allows, because I do not know enough about designing with light and how far I can push the design. For example, the source of light in this image should be firelight (torches and maybe hanging oil lamps) on either side, behind, and above the centaur. I highly doubt that that kind of a light source could result in the lighting of my image, but that is where design takes over reality. My question is: Did I take too much liberty with my light design?

Image 04

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 04

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 04

Story: This image has been playing around in my mind for a while now. If Warriors of Virtue is to be divided into printed books, this image is a scene from Book #2—Cured by a Rose (working title that I may change because it sounds too romantic). At this time, the story is classified.

Mood: Peaceful. Romantic. Private.

There is a wide range of values for this composition. However, though there are very light lights and very dark darks, all of them are grouped in a way that feels balanced and therefore nonthreatening. The rhythm of the stars is echoed in the highlights of the silver dragon’s scales. The sleeping girl contrasts with the dragon’s body. The fire is burning merrily. The strong horizontals create peace, the mountains point to our main subjects, the foreground and the vertical trees frame them protectively, creating a feeling of peace and privacy. The composition is also centralised like the others to give it a further feeling of stability, but the lighting creates a very different mood. The circular light pattern and the shape of the dragon’s tail further create the feeling of unity and privacy.

Image 05

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 05

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 05

Story: Our heroes are captured by the Chameleon-people who live in fancy tree-houses connected by bridges. The Chameleon-people design influence is Middle Eastern.

Mood: Informative.

Though the main characters are threatened, the threat is not imminent. This image is not about their fear, but the scope of the environment. I have attempted to use the curvilinear perspective to show as much of the environment as possible. I have also created circular pathways to create an illusion of depth in their repetition, though they are of different sizes. The same should occur with the repetition of the trees. I will need to do more research regarding Middle Eastern design and architecture, but I tried to bring in the feel to some of the structures. Chameleon-people are fairly human-like, except that they are shorter and they walk on their toes like raptors. I have also created a value scale that creates a feeling of atmospheric perspective, with the highest contrast in the foreground. Unlike the other compositions in this assignment, this composition is not central and our focus is taken primarily by the characters and the palace.

Assignment for Week 03 is to create 10 value compositions using only value, but I have so much other work that I do not know when I’ll catch up.

Until next time,



Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to get all the important updates, free artwork, stories, and tips.



Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography


Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in Schoolism, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 01 +

For those of you who are thinking of taking Schoolism classes, but are just not sure, I will be sharing my experience.  Hopefully, my journey will help you to decide if the classes are right for you.  I think the idea of Schoolism is great, but are the classes as great as I imagine them to be? Only time will tell. To find all of my Schoolism post, follow the category (tag) Schoolism.


Schoolism Dashboard

This is what the Schoolism Dashboard with lessons ready for viewing looks like.

I was so excited to begin my Schoolism lessons on July 15th, Pictorial Composition with Nathan Fowkes. I got the video files, and was as eager as when I entered my first class of Sheridan’s Classical Animation. Then, I encountered my first problem; the video did not play on my iPad!!!

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Lesson 01 Dashboard

Schoolism Pictorial Compostion Lesson 01 Dashboard. The following videos play automatically. This division makes it easier for the stream and for you to access a particular section.

I waited until I got home. Still excited, I ran up to my room, grabbed my Cintiq Companion, and ran back downstairs to my favourite couch spot. (Yes, I am like Sheldon Cooper. I have a couch spot, though I do not guard it as obsessively as he does.) The video played, but it kept freezing from time to time. It was frustrating, but Nathan Fowkes was delivering so I did not care as much.

I enjoyed the lecture and was ready to work on my assignment. It looked easy enough. We were supposed to pick our three favourite compositions then render each one three different ways. The first is supposed to be rendered only in 3 values. The second full value scale, but no details. The third, full colour with no details. Fowkes said it should not take us more than 5 minutes to do the first, and no more than half an hour to do the other two.

… My first two compositions took three days.

I chose Touch of the Wolf by Susan Krinard cover art (Steve Assel, I think is the artist) and Drew Struzan’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone poster art from his “art of” book. Those are my two favourite compositions. I’m not sure what I wish to do for the third.

Touch of the Wolf and Harry Potter Image Sources

Touch of the Wolf and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone original image sources for Pictorial Composition Lesson 01 Assignment.

Now, I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong. Why is it taking me so long to complete this assignment? Is it because I have chosen complex subject matter? Am I including too many details? Is it that I do not know how to use my digital tools as well as other students? I did find it rather difficult to match the digital colour to the print colour. The colour that I picked on screen may have looked like the colour on the print, but then as I started painting, I realise it was off.

Maybe it would have worked better if I used gouache, but my paints are 10 years old, and I wanted to practice using my new digital tools.

After completing the two compositions, I decided to check back my lecture video, when I noticed that I have completely missed the commentary videos of Fowkes critiquing other students.

After listening to a few, it appears that for the first image we should not copy the original shapes as close as possible, but that we should simplify as much as possible to the basic shapes. We should also pick the three values that match our image’s values??? However, we are still supposed to showcase the main subject of the image. I do not want to include details, but if I do not include Harry’s glasses and scar, am I showcasing my subject to the best of my ability?

I’m having a really hard time trying to figure how much to include and how much I should leave out, so for the last composition, I’m going to look for something very simple. I’m also going to try to find a digital image, and not the print image, so that I can have the reference on my computer as I’m painting. Then I’m going to time myself to see how much I can do in 5 min, and how much in half an hour.

This assignment should have taken a week to complete, but as usual, life likes to throw disasters my way, so I had to deal with some family issues and could not continue working as I planned. Thank you Nathan Fowkes for making me feel guilty about that. He actually said that even with his incredibly busy life, he is capable of finding time to complete all of these assignments on time.

Well, if it takes him half an hour to complete each, maybe that is true.

What is wrong with me?

Let’s see what I can do with the last composition…


Initially, for my last composition I thought about recreating my favourite Rococo painting, “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Even as a child I found this image terribly romantic. There is a pretty girl in a pink dress swinging, while a young man marvels at her beauty. A small reproduction of the painting has been hanging by the door in my home for decades. I looked up the picture on Google…

The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Click Here for the original source file.

I have been misinterpreting the image all of these years! There is nothing romantic about this painting except the colours. The reproduction I own is very dark, so I did not even see the old man pushing the girl on the swing. Apparently, this is the young WOMAN’s husband. (Gross!) The young man is not gazing at her adoringly, he is looking up her skirt and between her thighs! She is not an innocent pretty girl, but a saucy, flirtatious lady looking for her next lover.

I still love the painting, but I do not feel romance when I look at it any longer. 😉

Looking at it, I realised this composition was incredibly busy, and I did promise myself that I would pick something simple. By chance I glanced at the Robert Bateman books on my shelf. After a brief search, I decided on “Bluebird and Blossoms”. It looked simple enough, and I loved the colours and light in this image.

Blue Bird and Blossoms by Robert Bateman.

Bluebird and Blossoms by Robert Bateman. Click Here for the original source file.

Was I ever wrong! There is nothing simple about this image. There are so many branches, curves, flowers, tones… I have been overwhelmed once more. I did time myself, though. In the end I did create the three value study in less than 5 min (I reworked the values later on, but it was still under 5 min), the tonal study in slightly over half an hour, and the colour study in about an hour. I could have kept adding details, and perhaps I did add a few too many, but I’m happy with the last composition.

Here, you can see my complete assignment:

Pictorial Composition Week 01 Assignment

Pictorial Composition Week 01 Assignment. See below for details about each image.

I’m really looking forward to Week 02. We get to create five of our own compositions! Yay!

I have uploaded the Assignment from Week 01 on the Pictorial Composition Event Facebook Page, hoping for some critiques. However, as only the students of the class are present, it is difficult to get someone to rip my work into shreds and teach me what I’m missing. I myself have tried to offer some critique, but if I knew what I was doing, would I be taking this class? Maybe Schoolism can hire past students to monitor the event page and offer us some valuable feedback. Otherwise, we are pretty much on our own, which is OK, I guess. Maybe I’ll try the collective Schoolism Facebook Group. There must be some previous students there who have mastered the subject and are willing to offer me valuable feedback.

I’ll keep you informed. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to write me a comment.





While listening to the lecture, somehow I have completely missed that we were supposed to pick three values that matched the values of our sources to create the first composition. Therefore, I picked a dark grey, a mid grey, and a light grey. The challenge here was to decide what to include and what not to include. The easiest method was to squint and pick up on the images lights and darks, but do those values reveal the gist of the subject? I also thought that we were supposed to match the structure of the image as close as possible, and not to simplify the shapes to their bare bones.


Touch of the Wolf Composition 01

Touch of the Wolf Composition 01

Looking at my image now, I would remove all the distracting bits (such as branches covering the moon and the dark cloud that is taking away from the silhouette of the house and hills.  I would leave the plant pointing at the two characters, because I appreciate the circular movement it creates, as if it is cradling the two characters in it’s grasp.

I was a bit more comfortable dealing with the full value image. However, I did not notice that I’ve messed up the proportions of the original image. This always happens when I’m tired. Somehow, I loose the ability to visually measure anything.


Touch of the Wolf Composition 02

Touch of the Wolf Composition 02


Other than the proportions, I feel I have done a decent job with this composition, but have I spent too much time on it? Should it have been simpler?

The last composition is in colour. I know I have spent way too much time on this one.  The greatest challenge was trying to match the print colours to screen colours.

Touch of the Wolf Composition 03

Touch of the Wolf Composition 03

I believe I have captured the image rather well.  Perhaps I have added a bit too much detail to the curtains and wall, but I did want to keep people focused on the scene. Touch of the Wolf is a story about an English nobleman, Braden Forster, who happens to be a leader of a werewolf clan. The werewolves are dying out, so he has turned into an obsessive matchmaker looking to breed pure-blooded werewolves.  When his American cousin, Cassidy Holt, arrives on his doorstep, he is determined to match her with his brother, but Cassidy seems more interested in him. I really loved this story as a teenager, but I bought the book because of the gorgeous cover. To this date, I have not discovered another cover to match. I only wish the artist, Steve Assel, had more of his work on display.


Drew Struzan is probably my favourite contemporary artist. I love people. I love drawing people, and no one draws people better than Struzan.  He is also a master of composition; he can tell the story of an entire film with just one image.  One of my favourite images is the poster he created for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The moment I heard we were supposed to study three compositions, I had my top two picked out.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 01

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 01

The trouble with this image is that it is very complex. There are many character and many scenes I need to capture. Initially, I had translated shadows on Harry’s face, but then I decided to keep his face simple and to include the details of scar, glasses, and mouth. I could have made his face a bit rounder, and his mouth could have been smiling, but all of the elements of the picture I feel are represented in the image. What do you think?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 02

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 02

With the second image, my struggle of what to include what not to include resulted in me including way too much. I must have spent a day on this image, trying to discern all the shadows and lights Sturzan created. Why did he make this part of an image lighter? Why did he keep the other part of the image in a simple silhouette? What’s going on with the light on Hagrid’s face? The goblin’s face is tiny! What parts of the image are sharpest? Where are the blurred bits?… The questions went on and on.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 03

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 03

For the third image, I tried to include a bit of texture as well, and to put to use some of the digital tools (such as layer blending) that I did not have as a traditional painter. This image took another day.  Can someone translate the essence of this image in 1/2 hour? I did not even try, because I was just way too fascinated with all the details and subtlety and I decided to explore it to my heart’s content.  I also missed the part of the lecture that told us we should not spend more than 1/2 hour on these images. Ooops!


As mentioned previously, I did not have a third image in mind, and have stumbled upon this lovely painting by Robert Bateman by accident. At this point, I have caught up to the missing bits of the lecture, so I attempted to follow the guidelines to the best of my ability.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 01

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 01

In previous compositions, I would zoom into the image and work, these images I did not zoom in.  I kept them at approximately 3-inch-wide size as I worked. The image above took 5 minutes.  Or rather it would have if I did not decide to change my values.  At the first pass, the background was middle grey and the bird was dark grey and white. It is not neat and perfect, but I think this is the bare minimum needed to capture the essence of the composition.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 02

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 02

I soon realized that this image is not as simple as I thought.  There are a lot of interlocking branches.  Once again, I did not zoom into my image. I kept my distance, and have turned the texture of the interlocking branches into quick line strokes. I have timed myself, and have managed to create this image in just over 1/2 hour.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 03

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 03

For the third composition I cheated. By this point I was so tired that my measuring capabilities were gone. I created a new layer, quickly traced the bird and blossoms, and then I got back into drawing without digital aids. Now, I notice I have made my background colours a bit too blue, and have added more contrast to the entire image, but I did not want to spend hours fixing it, so I let it go at about an hour.


And there you have it; Pictorial Composition Assignment 01.


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Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography


Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

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