Monday Motivator: Clear Dominance in a Painting

“A painting with a clear dominance among design elements keeps equals from competing. … the ones most important for creative an effective sense of mood, and therefore a successful plein air painting, include value, temperature, and chroma.

” … you might choose one value [tone] to dominate. If your scene depicts a sunny day, the light values should occupy more real estate in the painting than the others. You might choose to group both your lights and mid-lights … and let them occupy much more than 50% of the painting.”

Michael Chelsey Johnson, “Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors” page 55

If not tone, then maybe dominance in colour temperature? But living in a part of the world where the sun if often behind cloud, and thus everything is in ‘soft light’ rather than in sunshine and casting strong shadows, muting the contrasts, colour temperature isn’t something I think about much.

If not tone or colour temperature, what about dominance in chroma, the intensity of colour? Juicy, bright, intense blues and oranges and yellows and purples as flowered in my garden this year. But also the opposite, the muted but varied browns and greys that come from mixing blue and orange to give me seashore colours. As Michael CJ says a few pages on from the above quote: “For impact, either rich or dull color must dominate. Equal amounts of rich and dull colour will confuse the painting’s mood.

There’s a lot to be explored in the tertiary part of colour space, once you get past neutral greys into “interesting greys“.

Michael Chelsey Johnson sketching at Sligachan on Skye
(Photo from June 2018 when I had the joy of painting alongside Michael Chelsey Johnson on his art retreat to Skye. You can see Michael’s painting on his blog here.)

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