In this three part series I want to discuss with you some ideas on how to create greater harmony in your paintings.
Harmony is important in any painting as it holds the viewers interests for longer. Good harmony means that all of the elements in a painting look like they belong together. When a painting lacks harmony and unity you intuitively know something is wrong with the painting yet you just can not put your finger on what it is.
Hopefully by the end of this three part article you will have the keys to greater harmony in your painting.
So here are the three things we are going to look at:
2/ Limited Palette
3/ Integration of Elements
When you apply the lessons in each of these three key areas your paintings will have a greater sense of harmony and unity … in short they will just look right.
So lets talk about Balance first.
Creating Balance In A Painting
When a painting is out of balance then it will not hold the viewer for long.
Balance is created when there is an even weighting of the elements across the painting.
Lets look at some quick sketches as examples:
In the above thumbnail sketch we have a little landscape with a house, background mountain, big cloud and an old tree log all on the left hand side. There is only a small bush on the bottom right hand side. If this was done up as a larger painting with this composition then even though the painting may be executed technically correct it would still not feel right because it is out of balance. Obviously all of the main elements in this painting are on the left hand side with very little to balance it out on the right hand side.
When you are designing your composition think of the old see saw you used to play on as a kid. Right in the middle was the pivot point. If you were on one end of the see saw and you were heavier than the person on the other side then of course your weight would bring your side down. Well your painting, when viewed, will be viewed as a whole. There is an imaginary pivot point half way across your painting. If the elements on one side have more weight then the whole painting will be brought out of balance. Again this is generally not something that people will assess consciously … in fact they probably could not point out this as an error. They will just know something about your painting was just not right.
The good news is it is easy to correct …
In this sketch I have simply added a larger tree on the right hand side to offset the weight of the elements on the left hand side. There would be a lot more harmony in the painting with this counter balance brought into play. What if there was no tree on the right hand side of the scene you are trying to paint? Well this is where you need to use some artistic licence of course and add a tree in.
Let us look at another example of a beach scene.
As you can see in this thumbnail sketch I have a mother and child walking along the beach with the waves coming in. Again the weight is too much on the left hand side. Now if you have learnt anything about basic composition you will know about the rule of thirds. The mother and child here are positioned at the intersection of the third lines yet the painting is out of balance.
Again … it is easy to bring a painting back into balance. In this little sketch I have added in the distant headland and closer foreground rocks on the right hand side. I have also added in a surf live saving flag. Now you probably do not need to add all three of these in to create a greater sense of balance … this is just to demonstrate what you could add in.
The important thing is when you are designing your next painting create a little sketch like these and play around with the positioning of your elements until you get the right balance. This will translate into paintings filled with greater harmony, and viewers who will linger longer when taking a look at your paintings.
Here is a great exercise for you …
Get your last ten paintings you have done and asses each one for the balance. For those that are not in balance ask yourself what can you add in (or take out) to have the painting be in balance.
Next week we will look at your choice of palette and how it effects the harmony of your painting. We will discuss how and why to use a limited palette.