Forrest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates. I think life is like a box of paints and in the class of art, life and art often overlap. If you’re going on a trip somewhere don’t you want directions, don’t you use your GPS or a roadmap or ask a friend how to get there? So, if you’re going to do a painting don’t you want to know where the lights and darks are going to be, where the center of interest is, how your eye is going to flow through the composition? In the advanced class I get people to do several eight and a half by 11 black-and-white copies of the resource material or photo they want to use. On one take a black magic marker and outline the main compositional features, try not to use more than four lines-for example, one for the edge of the outline of the mountain, one for the edge of the trees, one for the lake and rocks, the sky will appear above the edge of the mountain. This will help you simplify your composition. Take another black-and-white copy and actually cut out all of the main compositional features-the mountain, lake, mid-ground trees-and rearrange them on another sheet of paper. Perhaps the mountain should be more to the left, or change the point of view – take the mountain closer to the top of the paper, have more foreground. All things that can help you find your way around the composition of a painting, and don’t we all like good directions!