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Composition in Art and Nature

Composition in Art and Nature

January 21, 2023
What can the unbounded vitality of natural places teach us about composition in visual and written art forms?

How do the conventions of composition influence what and how we observe nature?

All communication is an act of composition, moving some things to the foreground and others to the margins or out of sight. Yet the unbounded vitality of natural places may challenge us: where to begin? What to include, or remove, when everything is somehow connected, not to mention constantly changing!

This class is for photographers, writers, sketchers and painters of every skill level. Working through the lens of our particular mediums, we will look at the many ways composition can help us know and translate places into art. We will explore conventional strategies such as the rule of three, the sonnet, modular, and grid.

We will provoke ourselves and each other by sharing approaches across mediums and inventing new methods, and we will seek answers from our surroundings, asking what compositions are in the land around us.

Come with your favorite materials – camera, writing and sketching pads, a curious mind, and snacks, water and lunch. Handouts will be provided and discussed. A maximum of twelve participants will allow for engaged discussions along the trail. Short, easy walks will alternate with focused work and discussion.

Todd Gilens is a visual artist, writer and garden designer who has led field classes since 2013. Focusing on the interactions of ideas and places, and he has created artworks for the National Forest Foundation, the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Stockholm University and others. His website is


-We will be meeting at the Limantour Beach Picnic Tables (near restrooms)

– Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to check in

– Refunds available for all classes 7 days in advance of the start date, after 7 days and before 2 days, participants can credit their class for a future date. All requests before 48 hours in advance will be declined. For COVID cancellation policy, see below.

– Please follow the parking instructions for the facility used that day

– Please provide an email you check regularly for updates and reminders about your class

– Registration is required online prior to the event in order to maintain class sizes

– Sales end 48 hours before the start date.

– Waitlists are available when the class sells out

What to Bring

Any camera

Notebook or sketchbook

Day Pack


Warm Variable Weather Clothing

Hiking Shoes

Water Bottle

Eventbrite Confirmation Email

Binoculars (Optional)

About the PRNSA Field Institute

The PRNSA Field Institute offers hands-on environmental education classes throughout the year that foster enjoyment of Point Reyes National Seashore. Our classes are led by expert instructors, who take you out of your everyday life and into the natural world. We host a variety of classes about the arts and sciences and have something for everyone. You can reach the Field Institute at (415) 663-1200 x304 or by email at

Interested in becoming a member of PRNSA? Click Here!

Interested in becoming a PRNSA Field Institute volunteer facilitator, or are you an outdoor educator or artist who would like to teach a PRNSA Field Institute class? Send an Email!

For any questions, please email us at

COVID-19 Field Institute Guidelines

In accordance with Marin County guidelines for public health and safety, we ask all participants to respect the following COVID-19 procedures:

• Perform a health self-check before coming to class using the CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus as a guide

• Do not attend class if you are experiencing COVID symptoms, suspect you have been exposed to the virus, or are suffering from any other flu-like or respiratory illness

• Participants exhibiting signs of respiratory illness may be asked to leave class

• Masks are optional but are strongly recommended when indoors or if gathered closely outside

• Please bring your own food and water

NOTE: Refund policy exceptions will be made for participants cancelling last minute due to COVID-19 infection or symptoms. Please contact us in this case.

Thank you for your cooperation in following these guidelines to help keep everyone safe.