Pictorial Composition

Nathan Fowkes
9 Lessons (12h 55m)
9 Week(s)

Two Ways to Learn


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  1. Watch Video Lessons at Your Own Pace
  2. Assignments Included
  3. Peer Feedback
  4. Switch Courses as Often as You Like
  5. Access to Schoolism Webinar Archives

LIVE Classes

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  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized Paint-Overs and Real-Time Feedback From The Instructors
  4. Watch Video Lessons and Peer Feedback as Often as You'd Like
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Digital Certificate of Completion
  7. Weekly Class Meetings LIVE on Zoom
  8. Access to Schoolism Webinar Archives

Course Description

"Great art requires great composition; our work cannot achieve its full expression without a practical knowledge of pictorial composition." - Nathan Fowkes

The goal of this course is to give artists and art students the ability to powerfully engage their audience through the design and composition of their artwork. The class will be a serious exploration of designing and composing our art to best convey the mood, story, emotion and visual impact of the subjects we portray. During our time together I'll take you step by step through the practical application of:

- The design and development process: taking a concept to a beautifully composed finish.

- The creation of mood, environment and story through pictorial composition.

- Composition in art history, learning from the masters.

- Theatrical scene composition to create compelling presentation art.

- How to solve compositional problems quickly and effectively.

- Step by step painting concepts, digital and traditional.

- Numerous photoshop demonstrations, screen captured live to show you the process in action.

- Building your personal work and concept art portfolio.

➡︎ For the ‘Critiqued Sessions’, students will meet up with Nathan Fowkes LIVE once per week on Tuesdays at 12pm PT / 3pm ET.

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

In my first lecture I'll give an introduction and class overview that will put you squarely on the path to creating engaging art through a working knowledge of pictorial composition. I'll introduce core principles for building visual relationships in your subject that will bring purpose and an exciting dynamic to your artwork.

As a concept artist, you'll be required to find strong, clear design within challenging and complicated subject matter. Whether it's sophisticated architecture, busy foliage or a landscape filled with dozens of characters. One of your core skills must be the ability to effectively deal with complexity. In this lesson I'll show how designing unified visual relationships can be your best and most potent solution to tackling complex subjects.

When we see an image, our first read is based on its overall value structure. In this lesson I'll show you how to grab the attention of your viewers from across the room with bold and graphic value design. We'll also study more nuanced value structure for subtlety of mood and atmosphere in our work.

From images of high drama to scenes of calm tranquility, the design of each of our pictures must be designed with clarity of concept. In lesson 4 we'll explore novel ways of creating visual interest in the primary areas of importance in our pictures.

In this demonstration I'll apply the concepts taught in the previous lessons in a series of demonstrations to show how our compositional concepts can work together effectively. I'll also review how the use of color and light will enhance the subject.

Your artwork can be much more than a mere depiction; it can be designed to emphasize the meaning and poetry of your subject. In this lesson I'll show you how to use balance and rhythm to give your subject a meaningful presence in the images you create.

Now that we've covered the critical big picture elements of visual composition it's time to discuss the nuances. We'll tackle big subjects and find the appropriate design to convey the subtleties of story, character, mood and environment in each.

For this lesson I'll demonstrate the compositional staging of space, landscape and architecture to create illustrations that best convey the mood, story and history of the subject.

Success as an artist requires us to be able to emotionally connect with our audience in a way that gives them an experience that they value. We can learn to design a variety of moments such as an action packed conflict, a scene of potent drama or a voyage of discovery. My final lecture will combine principles from all the previous weeks as I show you how to use the pictorial design of your subject and theatrical staging to create both presentation concept art and traditional art that wows your audience.


Nathan Fowkes

Nathan Fowkes is a veteran entertainment industry artist with credits on 12 animated feature films including DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt, Spirit, several projects within the Shrek Universe, How to Train Your Dragon, Blue Sky’s Rio 2, Ferdinand and Wonder Park from Paramount Animation and development art for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Additionally, Nathan has been sought after as a consultant for game studios to enhance the quality of their theatrical presentation. He has worked with numerous clients including Riot Games, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Disney Interactive, Rovio, Supercell and many others.

Nathan is also well known as a teacher of color, light, design and traditional drawing and painting. He is a regular guest lecturer at Art Center College of Design and has taught at The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art and the Laguna College of Art and Design. He's the author of the bestselling How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal and How to Paint Landscapes in Watercolor and Gouache. His work can be seen at nathanfowkes.com