Thursday, October 13, 2016

Master Class: Dominance

Nestled in Dawn's Early Light
9x12 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson
What color qualities are dominant in this scene?

I've decided to start a new series of blog posts, one that will address topics of interest to more advanced painters.  With this post, I'd like to talk about dominance.

Climb to a hill top on a summer's morning, overlooking a forested valley.  It's a breath-taking view, and you can see for miles.  You'd love to paint it.  But stop for a moment to consider what visual ingredients go into making this scene.  The sun begins to rise before you, casting a golden light over the valley, and the very air seems incandescent.  Summer has nearly reached its end, and the vibrant greens of spring are now tempered with muted reds and yellows, giving a hint of fall.

You set up your easel and prepare your palette.  Now, after you’ve used your viewfinder to crop your scene but before dipping your brush into the paint,  ask yourself three questions:

  • Is the scene mostly light or dark?
  • Is it mostly warm or cool?
  • Is it mostly filled with rich color or dull?

I usually think in terms of square inches.  For example, do the warm colors occupy more real estate in the scene than the cool ones?

You determine that yours is a low-key scene, filled with cool, mostly dull color.  Yes, there are little spots of warm light and a hint of richer reds and yellows, but these only serve to increase the sense of luminosity.

This analysis to determine what is dominant in a scene will help you to "capture the moment" successfully.   Although there are many different contrast pairs, I’ve found that these three -- value (light/dark), temperature (warm/cool) and chroma (rich/dull) -- are the most important ones for landscape painting.

In my next Master Class post, I'll write about what I call contrast pairs.

If you’re an advanced painter, do you have a Master Class topic you’d like to see discussed?  Let me know!

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