Harmoy of Colours: Creating Balance in Painting

The Flagellation of Christ
Piero della Francesca 
National Gallery of the Marche, 
Urbino, Italy

If you are a Lawyer, a Motor Mechanic or a Plumber, you have the tools of your trade. The art of painting has its own set of tools. 

From the days of cave paintings, the human mind endeavours to find out newer and more efficient tools for depicting its painting prowess. By manipulating the use of colours and brush strokes, the clan of artists does create beautiful perspectives. Creativity embedded in the human minds and the balanced use of colours collectively create harmony in an art piece.

Harmony in Painting:   If the colours are used creating a harmonious looking painting, it is an achievement for the artist who did it. Look at the above painting The Flagellation of Christ. Here the artist had created a single effect using different tones of the colours lying on his palate. The plate might be full of cool colours or bright colours, but a painter configures a whole picture to facilitate the eyes of viewers to enjoy the artwork. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

The above painting The Flagellation of Christ is done by renaissance artist Piero Della Francesca. In addition to creating the harmony of colours in his painting, the Italian artist was known for depicting wonderful compositional elements like perspective and arrangement of light in his paintings. The Italian artists of the renaissance period were expert in showing the subject in their proper perspective and executing the theme of painting they chose to paint. The above painting of the element of light painted around the figure of Jesus is astonishingly superb.

Group of Three Girls Amrita Sher-Gil
National Gallery of Modern Art,
New Delhi   
OIl on canvas

What is Harmony?   Creating harmony of colours in a painting is a skill and a technique. Harmony is a state of happening where wavelengths of those present around and lying in near vicinity meet each other. Together they form a pleasant scenario. Together they created a feeling of suitable solidarity with each other. In the art of painting, the element of harmony of colours is so paramount that it will catch the eyes of the viewers first. Artists do labour to create it on canvases, papers, and other mediums. And the end result is that the harmony of the colours would create a feeling of tranquillity in the minds of the viewers.

An artist, while painting in watercolour or oil colours or in any other medium, endeavours finding equivalents of the colours he or she observes in the real atmosphere. But his or her choice is limited to the colours available in the palette. So the artist would select harmonious colours to make a painting beautiful. As the piece of music entertains listeners by creating an interest in listening, the painter also tries creating visual interest in the eyes of viewers.

The viewers, or the listeners, enjoy the art or music if the sense of order is there. The sense of order is pivotal for creating interest and generating final enjoyment through the work of art. By harmonising the tones and values of colours, the painters create the same sense of peacefulness. With the help of his or her painterly vision, an artist creates a kind of lively equilibrium among different tones of the colours used. Ultimately the end product, the painting on paper or canvas, arises as a convincing reality of the object the artists have recreated.

On the Balcony Oil on canvas
John William Godward

Choosing Colours: Artists create a virtual world on the blank surfaces of the canvas. Here we would look into the characters and qualities of colours, the important tools of painting. Now a day most of the colours are sold in packing and manufactured by professional companies. Colours are as in numbers as are the stars in the moonless sky. Though there are no watertight rules regarding how to use colours, there are a certain set of colours making pleasant combinations. If used in a set pattern, the colours spread on paper or canvas would promise success.

The most important aspect to be kept in mind while using colours is the concept of “balance”. The balance of bright, cool, and subdued colours in their proper proportion is the key factor. Though there are no watertight rules regarding how to use colours, there are certain sets of colours making pleasant combinations. If used in a set pattern, the colours spread on paper or canvas would promise an aesthetic combination.

What is the Balance of Colours?   If we closely look at any painting, we would notice that one or a set of colours dominate the whole frame. Among this set of colours, one of them might be dominating its immediate surrounding. This dominance would be in terms of hue, intensity or value of that particular colour. When we feel like that, the balance is created there. If we weigh the colours spread on canvass in terms of their weight, we can clearly say that an area of dominant colour is much heavier, heavier than the area covered by the adjoining colours. Were an artist to make our painting balanced in all respect, he will have to develop a well-balanced colour scheme. Balancing the colours means to equalize the weight of all the colours used. Knowing about the weight of a particular combination of colours can be known by technical reading or it can be gained through practice, too. 

Wheatfield with crows   Vincent van Gogh 
Oil on Canvas, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Importance of Oil Colours: Grind a pigment, suspend it in a drying oil, and it will become an oil colourThe manner in which our eyes respond to colour or colour-mixing is quite a spacious subject. But the colours painted with oil have enchanting effects; that's an unbeatable argument. In modern times, too, the paintings in oil are as current as they were in past. Since the use of oil in painting became a common aspect, the artists have found the painting in oil more convenient and perhaps superior to other mediums. Artists find oil a more convenient medium, as the pigments suspended in it dry slowly, giving them a long time to manipulate the colours. 

The master artists have found oil Paints a resourceful medium of painting. From the time of Jan van Eyck who is known to have produced a stable oil mixture that could be used to bind mineral pigments, the popularity of oil as a medium of painting had increased day by day. There is no painter of reckoning who has not used the oil as a medium of painting. Here are some of the best paintings done by master artists using oil paints. 

George Seurat: Take the name of pointillism, and you will remember one name: George Seurat. He was the artist who made the technique of pointillism so popular. He applied the various theories of colours to create optical unification of the colours. he used the contrasting colours in such a skilful manner that it would form a single hue in the eyes of viewers. He preferred his own style of painting, the pointillism, over the regular brush strokes. He used the oil colours in a way that his technique would make the colours more brilliant and the painting a vivid one.

Salvador Dali, (1904 -1989), a Spanish artist was one of the most skilled artists of the twentieth century who used the potentials of oil colours. He produced some of the best results. Though viewers might find his images striking and the shapes he painted looked bizarre; Dali had invented a brand new style of painting. He belonged to a group of artists known as surrealists. And he carved out his individual space.

George Stubbs Yale
Centre for British Art

George Stubbs  (1724 – 1806) was known as the painter of animals. He used oil colours to adore the beauty of animals. His paintings of horses are wonderful. His paintings of horses have made him an artist to be regarded as equal to the great artists like Raynolds and Gainsborough. The skin colours he applied to the horses are lively and outspoken.

Lucian Freud was the painter who painted marvellous artworks by using the impasto style of painting. This painting technique is suitable when an artist is using oil paint. Oil paints are relatively thick and they take more drying time. Moreover, impasto has created a new type of relationship between the hues of the colours and their physical thickness. In a broader sense, this impasto technique is an advancement in the field of spatial discoveries, creating a relationship with the artworks and the viewers' eyes.[All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons.] 

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