Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
"Cocoon," oil on ACM, 30 x 30 in. Available at the Marshall Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ

Earlier, we had the pleasure of sharing an article titled “Approaching Composition: Diagonals and Curves” by contemporary artist Olga Krimon. Here, she offers a step-by-step painting demonstration on how she created a composition for a painting titled “Cocoon.”

Step-By-Step Demonstration: Creating a Composition


For my painting “Cocoon,” I wanted to try a circle within a circle. I have to admit that I didn’t think through the rest of it before I started this piece (I usually sketch it out beforehand), but fortunately it materialized as the painting progressed.

Step 1. I used raw umber and burnt umber to start the underpainting directly on a sanded ACM panel. It’s a very sleek surface. I usually glue canvas to it, or use Lead Alkyd ground from Natural Pigments to gesso it, but I really loved working directly on this surface.

Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
Step 1

Step 2. I continued to sketch in the figure, and started to think of a space within the circle. You can see that I continue diagonals even if they are not going to be seen, like the middle line going through the figure’s legs in order to land on her hand. The diagonals were inspired by her fingers, but are mirrored to counterbalance the fingers. She is leaning to the right, so I felt that the opposing diagonal leaning left will give me the balance, too.

I didn’t quite know where I was going with this, but you can take risks at this stage — anything can be easily wiped down. This is a good time for trial and error (except I suggest doing it in your sketchbook first).

Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
Step 2

Step 3. Further refinement of the figure, but still in monochrome. I just wanted to get a feel for the masses, and develop the head and the fingers further. A very rough stage still.

Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
Step 3

Step 4: Here is a closeup of the face at the end of this stage.

Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
Step 4

Final painting composition:

Painting composition how-to - Olga Kimon -
“Cocoon,” oil on ACM, 30 x 30 in. Available at the Marshall Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ

The final painting. The curve of the drape enhances the circle-within-a-circle effect. It’s one of my most monochrome paintings (even though my full palette was used), but this was a calm, solemn piece, and I felt that bolder colors would have an opposite effect. It was an experiment both in the composition of circles and the color (or, rather, the lack of color).

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Olga Krimon received academic art education in Kazan, Russia. Growing up she was (and still is) largely influenced by Repin, Serov, Brullov, Levitan, Kramskoy, Fechin and other Russian titans. She then discovered Sargent, Zorn, Sorolla and Cecilia Beaux, and to this day she examines the movement, the bold brushstrokes and the value arrangements in their pieces.

She continued to grow and develop her skills later in America through drawing classes with Glen Orbik and painting classes with Jeremy Lipking. Olga also holds a BA in Art History, and she credits it with providing her the rich visual vocabulary that is instrumental for defining her path as an artist. She also later received an MBA, making her well-grounded in the business side of an artistic career.

Olga continues to refine her craft through independent studies and daily practice. Over time, she developed her own style grounded in fundamental principles of academic realism, sensitivity to subtle value and color transitions, and yet bold energy of movement and expressive brushstrokes. Olga’s Figurative and Still Life Paintings are recognized by the Portrait Society of America PSoA (International Competition 1st Place Drawing 2016 and 3rd Honor Award 2014, Certificates of Excellence 2011, 2015 and 2018, Members Only 3rd Merit 2015 and Honorable Mention 2014) and American Art Collector Award of Excellence, Oil Painters of America (OPA) Western Regional Competition 2014. She is also a finalist in 2015 and 2016 Art Renewal Center (ARC) International Salon Competition.

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Today’s article is sponsored by the Liliedahl art video workshop “William A. Schneider: Composition Secrets for Figure Painting”

Video Length: 4 hours, 19 minutes

In this instructional video, you will see, firsthand, why Bill believes that composition trumps everything else, and why it’s crucial that you continue to study and apply design and composition to every painting you create.

Here’s a bit of what you’re going to discover with Bill Schneider:

  • The ONE thing that will make or break your figure paintings
  • Composition and design math — Bill makes this much easier for you!
  • What NOT to do if you want to sell your paintings
  • Fix this in your painting now, or run into mayhem later!
  • The secret to making your figure paintings look more natural (great artists know this, and now you will, too!)
  • And lots, lots more!

Learn more about “Composition Secrets for Figure Painting” and get your copy here today.