Creating Harmony In Paintings – Part 1

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:

1/ Balance

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.


5 Keys For Landscape Painting

5 Keys For Landscape Painting

When painting landscapes it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused about what to do when.

Landscapes can be a complicated subject but they can easily be simplified. One of the things I have observed watching very good artists is that they all have a working process and they all simplify the subject down. Sometimes knowing what to leave out is just as important to knowing what to include in a landscape painting.

As I have progressed with my landscape painting I have developed rules or principles that I work by. Actually I did not develop them … I just learnt them through observation. These 5 keys for landscape painting will give you a framework you can use to improve the quality of your painting.

The 5 keys of landscape painting are:

1/ Paint Thin To Fat – When you start out you should be painting with thinned down paint. This is true for both oil and acrylic painting. You want your initial application of paint (the block in stage) to be with thin paint. As you progress the painting you can then start using thicker paint with the thickest paint applied usually being the highlights at the end.

2/ Dark To Light – With oil and acrylic painting you are best to work dark to light. In other words you will want to start out painting your darkest darks and work progressively towards the lightest lights (highlights) in your painting. Now if you combine this rule with the first then it makes sense that your darks are the thinnest paint and as you work towards your lights the paint becomes thicker.

3/ Large To Small – Always start with big shapes and work towards small details. One mistake many beginners make is they get into detail work too early. Start out with big shapes and get those right first. Then progressively refine these big shapes and apply small details at the end. By doing so you will ensure you keep the big picture firmly in mind and keep everything in balance. The little details come right at the end of the painting.

4/ Big Brush To Small Brush – Start out your painting using big brushes. Remember at this point you are painting big shapes so it makes sense to use big brushes. Resist the temptation to grab your liner brush until right at the very end. You will notice from my online painting courses and the learn to paint DVD’s that I mostly use a 1″ bristle brush or a pastry brush for at least 80% of the painting. Using a big brush enables you to get paint down fast and block in all of your key areas.

5/ Limited Palette – You want to limit your palette to just a handful of key colours. This will create colour harmony through out your painting. Beginners get into trouble because they have 23 different colours on their palette and they never learn to mix colours correctly. You should learn how to mix colours by using just a limited palette. My palette consists of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre & Burnt Sienna plus Titanium White. So throw away your leaf green dark and learn how to mix colours from a limited palette. What you will find is much greater harmony and unity in your paintings.

If you follow these 5 keys you will see an immediate improvement in your landscape painting.

At first you will need to think about these keys consciously but after a few months you will find yourself doing them automatically. When you start to follow these keys unconsciously your painting will move to the next level as it frees your creative mind to focus more on things like subject matter, composition etc.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then take a look at our online painting courses ‘Painting Landscapes – Level I‘ and ‘Painting Landscapes – Level II

Let me know your thoughts or questions about these 5 keys of landscape painting below.

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)


In this series on how to paint a landscape I will take you step-by-step through one of the projects in our online course Painting Landscapes – Level 2. This is part 2 … if you missed part 1 then go here How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step

In part 2 I continue developing the painting further and get into a lot of the detail work.

In the above photo I am now at the point where I need to start developing the middle distance trees and the foreground trees. These play a key role in the painting. The first step is to strengthen the dark’s in the trunks, branches and foliage shapes. Some of the dark’s where lost as I painted in the sky and background. So I remix the dark and strengthen it on the middle distance trees. Remember the middle distance trees do not want to be as strong or dark as the foreground trees. I also add highlights on the light side of these trees. The highlight colour is mixed using the dark and then warming the colour with Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson and then lightening it with a touch of Titanium White.

As I have developed the middle distance trees the farm buildings now need to be tightened up. So I make sure the edges around the main buildings are sharper and where the sun is catching the roof in a couple of places if brighter. This is the focal point where we want the eye to be drawn to so it is important that we have just enough detail to be able to make sense of the subject. When you use hard edges you draw the object into focus. The key is not to make all of the edges in the focal area too sharp. Just enough so that the farm building are brought into attention in the painting.

Now I go to work on the main trees following the same process I used on the middle distance trees. I darken the trunks, branches and foliage (this time with Ultramarine Blue & Burnt Sienna), and then follow the same process to highlight the light side of the foliage. The highlights on the tree trunks is a mix of Cadmium Orange and Titanium White. Do not over do the highlights on the trunks … just enough so that your eye understands there is light reaching the side of the tree. By having a strong shadow on the opposite side it further develops the illusion.

One of the most important things that I do when I am painting is to stand back a few meters from the painting. This way you get to see the painting as most people will when it is finished … as one whole unit. When we are busy painting we do not see the whole painting but rather the tree we are working on. If you do not develop the habit of stepping back from the painting then you can not see how the overall balance and impact of the painting is working. In our art classes I am constantly getting our students standing up and looking at their work from a distance.

You can see that I have the highlight colour on the foliage and I am now using a script liner (or rigger brush) to add in additional branches. Old gum trees have lots of broken and dead branches sticking out all over the place so I add a few of them in.

Time now to work on the foreground. We need to make the foreground interesting yet not dominate the eye. The foreground in this painting needs to be a pathway to the main center of interest in the painting. Here I am using a flat brush and I am flicking in some grass around the base of the tree. In this case I wasn’t that happy with it so I took some paper towel and wiped it all back and started again. Do not be afraid to wipe back parts of your painting if they are not working.

I did eventually get the foreground the way I wanted it … I added in a fence post in the right hand side to fill that empty space. I also added in an old dead tree trunk with grasses growing. Now we are getting close to the end I go over the whole painting and make adjustments to ensure everything is in balance. Here I am adjusting the bottom of the clouds to soften them back into the sky a little. I worked over the entire painting just making sure that there was nothing jumping out of the painting distracting the eye.

With the last minute adjustments made we arrived at a completed landscape painting. As a demonstration painting I was quite happy with it.

The most important thing about this two part article is that I want you to see that there are a series of logical steps you can follow when painting landscapes. These steps can be learnt and easily followed and they will greatly improve your landscape painting.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then please take a look at our online courses Painting Landscapes – Level 1 and Painting Landscapes – Level 2.

Leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 1)

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step


In this series on how to paint a landscape I will take you step-by-step through one of the projects in our online course Painting Landscapes – Level 2.

Painting landscapes is one of the most rewarding challenges an artist can have as it gives us the opportunity to capture a moment in time in a way that a photo will never be able to. Landscape painting allows the artist to highlight that which he /she connects with in the landscape. Traditionally landscape painting has been the focus of most artists however true landscape painting has been on the decline in recent years.

In this two part article I want to give you a step-by-step overview of how I approach painting a landscape.

Note: The best way to learn to paint landscapes is from life. In this particular painting I had been to the location, walked around and taken lots of photos that I was using as reference for the painting. So make sure you are either painting on location (plein air) or working from a real life subject. Trying to paint landscapes from your imagination can only lead to imaginary looking paintings.


I start out every landscape painting by doing a quick sketch. Using a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson I outline the main shapes in the landscape. The key here is to simplify everything you see in the landscape into a hand full of large shapes. When you do your drawing as above the goal is to place these large shapes on the canvas in a pleasing composition. At this point I will use some artistic license if need be to move things around so that I end up with a composition that will be pleasing to the viewer.

When I am happy with the sketch I start to work on the sky. I am using a pastry brush (thanks to Robert Hagan) as the main brush I use for most of the painting. The sky is painted with Cobalt Blue and a little Titanium White and just a pin head of Alizarin Crimson. Notice that my brush strokes are random and I keep the brush moving to give the feel of movement to the sky.

In the lower part of the sky I add more Titanium White to the mix to lighten the sky as it gets closer to the horizon. I also start to work in some clouds. These are Titanium White with some Yellow Ochre to warm the clouds up. I rough them in initially and will come back to work on them some more later on. At this point the sky is quite wet as I have used a fair amount of thinner in painting in the sky … so now is the time to move on to another area to give the sky I chance to dry off a little.

Now I work on my most distant mountains. In order to have these look like they are in the distance you want to get the value and colour right. The value needs to be darker than the sky at the horizon but light enough to keep them in the distance. Using mostly blue helps to keep the mountains looking distant. Notice I take some time to work around the foliage of the middle distance trees. This can be a little tricky to do so you need to be patient.

Next comes the layer of mountains that are closer to us. Notice that it is a darker value … more Alizarin Crimson is used to darken the mix. You can see how it has pushed the first row of mountains back into the distance. Remember that all painting is about creating the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional canvas.

Moving forward I start to paint in the fields behind our center of interest which is the farm sheds and buildings. This is just Yellow Ochre with Titanium White. I also grey down the colour by using some of the mix that I used to get the initial sketch in. When you grey the colour down it helps to make it look more distant. Objects that are closer to us have increased colour saturation and as they go into the distance the saturation decreases (ie they grey  down).

I am now about to start on the middle distance and foreground fields. Notice I am still using the pastry brush at this stage as we block in the main shapes with the correct value and colour.

With the middle distance and foreground fields I start off with a light mix and low saturation. As it comes forward towards the viewer I strengthen the mix and saturation of colour. I also warm up the foreground more by introducing some Burnt Sienna and some Cadmium Orange. A good rule to remember is that warm colours come forward and cool colours go back into the distance. Notice the shadow of the main trees now plays an important role for a number of reasons … first it is a cool colour which contrasts nicely against the warm fields, and secondly it just breaks up the larger shape of the fields to keep it more interesting.

Now I move to a key part of the painting which is the farm sheds and equipment. I am now using the small flat brush. The key here is that I am just making marks to indicate the farm sheds etc. I am not actually trying to paint them directly. By giving the impression that these buildings and equipment are in the landscape the eye of the viewer and the mind fill in the blanks. Importantly around the lighter colour farm buildings I am adding in shadow colours of trees and bushes at the back. Again this is to create contrast in this focal area.

It is time now to move on to our middle distance and main trees. First thing I want to do is mix up a strong dark and strengthen all of the darks. This includes the tree trunks and branches as well as the foliage. For the middle distance trees we do not use as strong a dark as the foreground trees.

Well at this point we have blocked in all of the main shapes with the right colours and values. You will know if you have this right because you should already be seeing some depth in the painting.

Next week we will finish off the painting with the refinement and finishing touches.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then please take a look at our online courses Painting Landscapes – Level 1 and Painting Landscapes – Level 2.

Leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


How To Paint Waves

How To Paint Waves

In this video I show you how to paint waves so that they look like they are standing up and rolling over as they break.

This video is taken from our new TV Show “Yes You Can Paint”.

The full painting demonstration is available on DVD or as a member of the DVD Club.

Take advantage of our special offer – click here  <<< Limited time offer

3 Steps To Painting Success

3 Steps To Painting Success

As an artist it is easy to over complicate things.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking … ‘If I just had that new tube of green then my painting would improve‘ or ‘If only I could get a new easel‘ etc etc.

We have a tendency to focus on the things that make the least amount of difference to what will improve our painting.

As a beginner just starting out on your painting journey it is even harder. There is so much to learn and think about.

So the more you can simplify things down to just a few things to focus on the easier (and more enjoyable) your painting journey will be.

At Moore Art School we teach what we call the Moore Method Of Painting. This is a simple 3 step process to starting a painting and finishing it.

If you follow the three steps we teach in the Moore Method of Painting through our one day Art Workshops or our Online Art Classes then you will quickly improve and at the same time get more enjoyment out of painting.

So what are these 3 steps?

Glad you asked … lets look at them in more detail.

Step 1 – Establish Drawing

One of the challenges I believe with the wet-on-wet method typically taught by Bob Ross and Bill Alexander is that they do not teach you to draw.

I really believe if you want to be a good painter you need to be able to draw reasonably well. Simply because in order to be able to draw a landscape for instance you also need to be able to see accurately. It is this ability to be able to see that will fast track your painting skills. So the more you learn to draw what you see in front of you the more you develop your ability to see.

Now when I talk about drawing I do not mean drawing a detailed pencil sketch of the subject (although that may not be a bad idea).

What I am really talking about is placing the outlines of big shapes on the canvas.

This is important because first you have to simplify the scene down into a handful of big shapes. You also have to place them on the canvas so you get to see right away if the composition is going to work.

Here is an example of what I mean:


When I draw in my big shapes I either use Burnt Sienna thinned right down with thinner, or a mix of Ultramarine Blue & Alizarin Crimson which are both transparent colours … again with plenty of thinner. You want the paint to be an ink like consistency.

Forget the details at this stage … look for big shapes and if necessary combine elements into big shapes.

Step 2 – Block In Big Shapes

Once you are happy with the composition you have laid out it is now time to start with the block in stage.

This is where start to establish the values pattern of the painting. If you are unsure of values then I recommend the Get Started Painting course.

At this stage I am still using very thin paint and looking to cover the canvas and remove the stark white that puts of many would be artists.

Focus here on getting the relationship with your dark’s and light’s right. First start with the dark’s establishing your darkest dark’s.

Then work on your mid tones and finally the lightest tones.

With a bit of experience the first two steps can happen fairly quickly. You will find the more you paint the faster you will move through steps 1 and 2.

Step 3 – Refine Shapes & Add Details

When you come to step 3 you want to slow down and take your time. The refinement of shapes, colour and values plus the focus on details are what separates good artists from great artists.


Notice in the above photo how the main trees have had midtones and highlights painted over them. In step 2 we just blocked in the shadow value for these trees. In step 3 we bring everything to life.

In the photo above I am working on the details around the cottage, adding in bushes and grasses, fence posts and the like.

Take your time with step 3 and enjoy the process of seeing your painting come to life.

A good rule of thumb is to use bigger brushes and thinner paint in step 2 … then in step 3 use smaller brushes for detail work and thicker paint.

Follow these three steps with each of your paintings and you will progress as a painter faster than you might have thought possible.

How To Paint A Willow Tree – Oil Painting Lesson


In this free painting lesson we look at how to paint a willow tree. We start of with the shadow side then add in the highlights.

Free Oil Painting Lessons – Creating Depth In A Painting

Free Oil Painting Lessons – Creating Depth In A Painting

In this series I will be bringing you a number of free oil painting lessons showing you how easy it can be to learn how to paint in oils or acrylics. This lesson is all about creating aerial perspective in a landscape painting.

To learn more about painting landscapes find out more about our new online course –Painting Landscapes – Level 2


Oil Painting Lessons – Free Oil Painting Lesson #1

Oil Painting Lessons – Free Oil Painting Lesson #1

In this series I will be bringing you a number of free oil painting lessons showing you how easy it can be to learn how to paint in oils or acrylics. This first oil painting lesson I show you how to paint an old farmers cottage.

To learn more about painting landscapes find out more about our new online course – Painting Landscapes – Level 2