Monday, February 8

One Way to Put Harmony in Your Paintings

Today’s Image
The Color Wheel

We all want harmony in our lives, right? Too bad saying it doesn’t make it so. We can’t control the inevitable bumps and sometimes even collisions of daily life.

But in your artist’s studio, on your very own canvas or paper, you can create all the harmony you want. Just what is this harmony of which I speak? I blogged about this subject almost a year ago, so I wanted to follow up on the subject.

The Free Dictionary online says, and I paraphrase: accord, a pleasing combination of elements in a whole. That’s a great definition.

Harmony in a painting is one of those things that, when you see it, you know what it is, but if there’s little to no harmony, then you know something is wrong, but you just can’t figure out what it is. I hope that makes sense to you.

Harmony in a painting is like a smooth melody in music—it just sounds good and makes you want to snap your fingers to the beat. In a painting, it just looks good, it’s pleasing to the eye, it’s beautiful. Instead of snapping your fingers, you may want to step up for a closer look, then step back to take it all in.

Okay. Now that we know or think we know what it is, how do we get some? As a bare-bones methodology, all you need to do is keep a color wheel on hand to refer to as you begin to paint. I won’t take time here to go into color or color-wheel theory or how to use one. (Google color theory for more details.)

Just start with the three primary colors: blue, red, and yellow (or cyan, magenta, and yellow). Draw a triangle with each color at a point. That's the little secret. In the simplest of terms, you have achieved harmony. Congratulations!

So, for any one of the thousands of colors you want to use, just triangulate its other two primary “mates” and you will have harmony. Wasn’t that easy? (Sure it was.). In theory it is, in practice, well, that’s something else.

Every time I begin a painting, I know I want harmony in it. I understand what I just explained to you and which seems so achievable. But somehow it’s difficult.

If I paint from a reference photo or en plein air, I should be able to paint exactly what I see in nature or see in the light anyway. I just need to pick out that dominant color, then triangulate it. Simple.

However, the problem is when I go from the see-ing to the paint-ing, even when I have the color wheel in my other hand. This is one of those abilities in art, I think, which separates the great from the merely pretty-good.

I would like to become a great artist, but I’m still on the journey. I like to say that I’m “aspiring and inspired” to become a great artist.

Remember—all it takes is "a pleasing combination of elements in a whole.”


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