This short video is excerpted from a demonstration I gave at my
annual plein air painting workshop in Skagit Valley, Washington. (Gage Academy of
Art, July, 2010.) The video talks about painting strategies in general and
gives specific examples of the analogous harmony and complementary color methods.
When working outdoors (and in the studio) landscape painters
often treat color as a matching exercise. While it is certainly true that working
from nature involves following nature's lead, and borrowing from what we see,
successful color also involves the application of a strategy.
A color strategy is like a recipe for harmony—a set of color
relationships that are proven to work well and can be used as a formula for
building our color composition. Like the musician who composes in a particular
key, in order to maintain certain types of harmonic relationships, the colorist
relies on a strategy to maintain a cohesive relationship among the colors:
hues will be used?
How will they relate?
Which will dominate and which will be
What mood will they conjure?
These are the questions a color
strategy addresses. Some painters report that they follow a more intuitive
approach and do not use a color strategy. That may be true, but in the end, if
the painting is harmonious and successful, we will be able to find a strategy
at work, whether it came about intuitively or by design.
Mitchell Albala is the
author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein
Air and Studio Practice (Watson-Guptill, 2009). He also hosts an educational
blog about landscape painting. Find him on Facebook and YouTube.
Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice:
Chapter 8, Light and
Color - "Real Light and the Limitations of Paint", p. 104; "Use of Color Strategies", p. 105