Down the lane, Arranmore, Ireland

This is a follow on from my last post about composition and large landscape paintings. Included a small study of a view of Arranmore, Donegal. The study used a diagonal composition.


Study 10cmx14cm (SOLD)


A Beginners Guide to Composition

A Beginners Guide to Composition (Diagonal Composition)

When it came to a much larger painting (60x80cm – approx 24″ x 32″) I decided on a slightly different composition. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the small painting worked, because it did, but because paintings in the “landscape” format are more popular with collectors than those in “portrait” format. It might have something to do with wall space, I am not sure. If you are not sure what “landscape” and “portrait” format is, it’s just about which round the painting is positioned. “Landscape” has the longest side along the bottom, “portrait” has the shortest side along the bottom.

Landscape format allowed me to include the sweep of the hill as it fell away from the viewpoint towards the sea. This composition used the rule of thirds, so the painting has a different energy to the study.

Beginners Guiiode to Composition (rule of thirds)

Beginners Guide to Composition (rule of thirds)


landscape painting of Arranmore Island, Ireland

Down the lane, Arranmore (SOLD)

The position of the viewer is slightly different, it has moved to the left and so more of the house in the foreground can be seen. The larger painting also has a red tractor in the lane, which the study did not, which draws the eye down the lane: hence the title.

Detail - Tractor

Detail – Tractor

I particularly enjoyed painting the different textures of crops and grass in the field that were not visible in the study painting. The widened composition also included the large cross on the shore to the left. I did not realize it at first but the wall in the corner of the painting is a graveyard wall. This is the graveyard of St. Crone’s chapel.  Saint Crone was a sixth-century Irish saint descended from King Niall Noígíallach (‘of the Nine Hostages’) and a contemporary of Saint Colmcille (St. Columba of Iona). Saint Crone was very active in the Rosses area. The parish of Dungloe on the mainland also takes its name from her; Templecrone.

Detail - The Cross

Detail – The Cross

So executing a study can be a useful tool in thinking about the composition of a larger work. It will show if a composition works or not but it can also suggest improvements and variations. Interestingly the study is a painting in its own right, it has a different, lighter feel to it. Small paintings often take just as much thought and effort as larger ones even if they are quicker to execute.

My PC just crashed. I am not sure if that’s a result of the effects of Storm Dennis (we had downpours all night long here) but I am going to stop here!



landscape painting of Ireland_Emma Cownie
View From Arranmore, Ireland

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18 replies »

  1. It’s interesting how much more diagonal the diagonal feels in the first painting–probably because it moves closer to the corner. I kept flipping back and forth, trying to figure out if the angle was actually different. I suspect it isn’t.

  2. Yes, it is slightly differnt, a slightly longer road and slight less accute angle. The viewpoint has shifted to the left a bit. The change in orientation gives it quite a different feel.

    • The large painting is 80cmx60cm (24″x32″) so it’s large but not massive but I do like to get details right. Interesting that you say the Arranmore, Donegal is greener than the Galway Islands. I think it depends on the time of the year and where you are on the island. The parts that are relatively sheltered from the atlantic seem pretty green, other parts are covered with blanket bog. Its a pretty large and mountainous island and quite a lot of people live here (about 470). There’s a good map of it here

  3. I didn’t realize how so much goes into the composition of a painting. Your drawing of the Beginner’s Guide to Composition and the blogpost definitely helps me to understand the thought process behind it all. To me, the little red truck gives focus and balance to the painting. That is my non-artist observation 😉 Lovely work! – Neek

  4. Oooooh the painting in that final photo is dynamite! It really MOVES! I love it!!! Now that I’ve exploded with praise, it’s time to also say I agree with you that for some reason people do not resonate much with vertically oriented paintings. I don’t do many of them–I think in my current Sky Pads series of 26 (soon to be 27) there are only 8. And only one of those eight has sold. But I would not be able to get the same beautiful active sweep I have in the vertical ones if I’d painted them horizontally. Ya, you do what you have to do.

    • Yes, I once painted a lovely woodland painting that was one of my best (“Still Killy Willy”) in portrait orientation but I was disappointed that it seem to take longer to sell than the “landscape” orientation woodland paintings.

  5. Emma, thanks for working through your process, I always find this fascinating to read about. Also thanks for the mini history lesson as well. Interesting to hear that St Crone was a descendants of King Niall. One of his sons is identified as the founder of Clan Ross of which I am an exceedingly far flung member.

  6. I appreciate you sharing the process of composition. So much beautiful detail in the big painting, composition does carry my eye through the painting into the distance. Beautiful painting Emma. I hope you faired well in the storm.

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