Art Tip #19: Fail to plan = plan to fail. My montra these days with my students is to hammer home the idea of what is most important in painting. First, composition. Second, value and lastly color. Without a good composition your painting will end up being a dog. Composition is the skeleton you hang the meat on. It sets the stage/tells the story/involves your viewer...or not, if not well planned. Take the time to do a thumbnail sketch or two before starting your painting..work out the big shapes you see, where are your darks/shadows and lights? What will be your center of interest? Change what you see to create an interesting balance/pattern/design. Study composition and learn the elements of design. I like to lay a piece of acetate over a photo of a beautiful painting and trace the big shapes to see the design the artist used. On more complicated, large paintings I do a detailed sketch, making notes as to values and colors and I refer to this throughout the painting process.