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Week by Week

Ross Moyer tells us how he approached the weekly assignments, highlighting his favorite creations for Composition for Concept Art and Illustration.


My name is Ross Moyer and I’m a student at CGMA. I’m from Pennsylvania in the United States. My educational background is in Economics and I’ve worked in Medical Records as well as Accounting. CGMA is the first art school I ever enrolled in. I’ve really enjoyed it!

I’ll be sharing some of my experience in CGMA’s composition class taught by Mauricio Abril. I took it because I think that composition is a very important part of a good painting and it is something I want to get better at.

Single Image Composition

My figure dominant sketch is about a rich girl out having fun with her dog while her giant guard protects her. I made the characters take up about 70% of the picture frame. I put the guard in because I thought his gigantic proportions created a nice contrast with the girl and her tiny dog.

In figure/environment composition, I tried to find a balance between the two by having them both be important to the story. The big kid is supposed to be feeling a sense of loneliness since the other kids are afraid of him. To show this, I seated him far down the bench from the group of little kids. I put a water cooler between them so they would appear even more isolated from each other. I positioned the big kid outside of the shelter of the tree to make him look vulnerable.

The fighter jet was the focal point in the environment dominant composition and it provided a sense of scale. I drew it small to make the city look very large by comparison. I added the jet trail coming from its exhaust to lead the eye through the city to the airplane.

Composition With Value

Taking Mauricio’s suggestion at our Q&A session, I completely redid the figure dominant composition this week. I made some changes to the environment/figure composition too. I think the compositional changes really paid off. Particularly in the case of the figure dominant composition, the new design made arranging the values easier. The environment dominant piece stayed pretty much the same and the values helped bring out the 3D shapes of the buildings as well as highlight the focal point of the jet.

The figure dominant value study showed me how useful it was to have the guard with his back to the girl. It allowed me to use his back as a dark frame for her light face. I lit the environment dominant scene so as to take advantage of the fact that I placed the jet over the river. I painted the river dark and the jet a bright white so it stood out very clearly. I think the main strength of the figure/environment sketch is the interaction between the little kids looking at the big kid and the big kid sadly looking down. I kept the big kid in shadow so he would seem unhappy and I put the kids in more light to make them seem happier.

For all 3 of the compositions, I painted the most contrast where the focal point is. I usually did this by making the focal point either light or dark, and then putting it on a background of the opposite value. In the case of the Figure-Environment composition, I used edge lighting on the big kid to make him stand out more.

Lighting & Color

We had two potential assignments this week. The first option was to do 3 color studies of one of our value studies from Week 5. The second option was to pick a value study and render it out in full color. I chose the second.

I didn’t have a hard time picking a color palette thanks to my reference board. I collected many images of red carpet events and everything else I needed to help me bring this image to a finish. I wanted it to turn out well as it was the most important part of the course to me. I pretty much copied the color scheme from the red carpet photos I saved. This consisted primarily of dark blues/purples with bright, highly saturated reds as secondary colors and then some other warm accents.

I did a lot of trial and error to figure out how the characters should be colored. I made silhouette outlines of them that I could quickly color in with a bunch of different combinations until I found something I liked. I made the girl’s face warm to contrast with the cool colors on the guard’s back. I added some camera flashes and more warm colors on the guard’s face and hands. These strengthened the circular rhythm that goes from the girl’s face, around the guard’s shoulders, and back to her face. I colored her jacket a greenish-blue because that seemed to blend in well with the reds/blues elsewhere in the picture.

Composition for Sequential Illustration & Other Formats

I picked a movie poster because I liked some of the examples Mauricio went over in our lecture videos and wanted to try one for myself. I knew from the very start my poster would have a big, flat nose truck. After doing some more research I decided to give the poster a Mad Max type of theme. I looked at a lot of trucks and rock stars for reference.

I painted smoke streaks in the background because they added a nice diagonal element to break up the composition. They went with the story too. Since the characters were outlaws they could have burned down a gas station or a town somewhere behind the mountain. The lesson I wanted to highlight the most in this assignment was to create a simple, impactful composition. Additionally, I wanted to keep in mind the constraints of the poster format by incorporating a title into the picture and leaving space for movie credits at the bottom.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this interview was of some help or interest to you. I think this course has improved my knowledge of composition and how to create images that are clear and strong. My advice to anyone else who takes it in the future is to get some good reference because it can help you a lot, whether for coming up with designs, color schemes, poses, and so on. Some other classes that I took at CGMA helped me too, in particular Perspective. I valued having experience working with different perspective views (1-pt, 2-pt, 3-pt)  when constructing my compositions.

Mauricio’s feedback was great. Without his criticism pushing me, I would have never tried the composition I did for my completed illustration. I’m very proud of it and I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever done, so I’m glad I took his class!