“...the best teacher of the visual arts that I've ever witnessed in person.”
John Dearstyne

Composition for Artists

This three-session seminar will help you use composition to evoke feeling through your work. I give a series of lectures on the few principles behind all artistic forms and how the great masters have used them to create masterpieces in varying styles. The sessions are creatively invigorating (read the comments!) so come prepared to learn.

Click here to see if this course is open for registration and for location details.

This course meets for three 4-hour sessions:

Session 1 The Role of Composition;
Abstraction & Feeling; Metaphor; Consonance
Session 2 Balance; Dominance;
Light & Dark Massing; Contrast
Session 3 Continuity; Rhythm & Pattern;
Transition & Counterchange

One of the most baffling problems for students of creativity is how to make decisions while painting — whether to make something lighter or darker or bigger or smaller or brighter or duller. These are the problems of composition, problems that did not bother any of us when we were children — we composed instinctively. Great artists also compose instinctively, but not as children, rather as grown-ups who are able to get their vision into pictures with grown-up wisdom and skill.

This course is designed to open your eyes to how pictures are “little worlds” that reflect your tastes and sensibilities. I will teach you how the great masters of the past learned from nature, learned from other masters, and grew in their skills until they could turn their feelings into forms that emotionally move their viewers.

For those of you who took my Drawing from the Masters classes where we studied the paintings of great masters, this is the same material boiled down into a crash-course. This material can be a major mind-shift for some people. Be ready — you will learn.


Bring a sketchpad and a mechanical pencil or pen or some other non-messy point media. No charcoal or dusty media or anything that leaves shavings.


This is not a university curriculum course and you will not receive college credit for it.


“After four years at a prestigious art college, Marshall introduced me to important concepts I'd never before encountered. Even now, those are the concepts I think about every time I sit down to do a painting.”
Chris Appelhans
Concept Artist for Monster House, Coraline, and Fantastic Mr. Fox
“Marshall's Composition Class. One of the most important classes I've ever taken.”
Justin Sweet
“One of the most respected teachers of this topic in the Los Angeles area.”
LA Academy of Figurative Art
“An enlightening, well-paced, intellectually and artistically challenging course. I had never had 'composition' taught to me so clearly and comprehensively before. Kudos, Marshall! A must-have course for visual artists.”
—Christian Hill
Comic Artist & Instructor at CSUF
“I got more practical knowledge from that [Composition] class than from many of my other art classes. Those principles apply to Graphic Design too.”
Lana Le
Graphic Designer, New York, NY
“...amazing ... I simply loved it. I had to drive a little over a hour to get home, as I drove my mind absorbed the knowledge that was just given to me and how it relates to my life and work. Thank you so much, you have gained a returning student.”
Daniel Urbach
“Very inspiring and useful for my work. Thank you so much. It was a great class.”
Charles Hu
“I can't begin to thank you enough. You can captivate and educate like no other.”
Ron Lemen
Illustrator and Founder of
Studio 2nd Street
“If you want to be a wiser, more knowledgeable and competent artist, go see Marshall Vandruff.”
Drew Struzan