Friday, August 5

The Harmony of Color

Color Harmony in my Acrylic
"Garden's Edge"
What is the first thing that draws you to a painting? For me, it’s color, first and foremost. My eye is drawn to see what is going on over there on that canvas. Is it bright and airy or subdued and mesmerizing?

Of course, color is not the only important part of a work of art and does not entirely stand on its own even in abstract or expressionist pieces. To make the whole, there’s also composition, subject matter, style, and mood of the piece.

But for me it’s color.

I like the quote of Vincent Van Gogh, which I include in Favorite Art Quotes on my blog: "Color in a picture is like enthusiasm in life." Although it’s hard for me to imagine Van Gogh saying those words in a serious moment, I do agree with the sentiment.

Some people like big, bold colors that cover the canvas from frame to frame. Others are happier with the monochromatic schemes. I, however, am a fan of harmony.

Harmony is that secret ingredient in color theory that makes certain mixtures of colors, and paint, go together in such a way that envelopes the viewer and relaxes the soul. It’s hard to describe or put your finger on what makes this so.

The science of color theory tells us we get all other colors from the three primaries, so that by using a limited palette, you automatically produce harmony. That’s true, but a little too cold of an explanation for me.

I like to think it’s the creativity and eye for color of the artist who plans to make harmony one of the prime elements of the painting. As everyone knows, Monet was a past master at this and why his work endures for the ages. Look at any one of his land- and riverscapes from his mid-1870's paintings, and you are likely to see beautiful sky blues and blue-green waters in unison with yellow, red, and purple flowers in a sea of soft, green meadows. Beautiful.

There is something about the harmony in soft pastel colors that gets to me when I see them in a painting, no matter the style or genre. That’s how I know color, for me, is the first thing I notice in a painting.

And so, I ask you again, what is the first thing that draws you to a painting?

Happy Painting!

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