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Painting Workshop 10
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This Month's Challenge

'Landscape: Colour Harmony'

Continuing on our quest to simplify the landscape we're going to have a look at simplifying the colours themselves to try and achieve colour harmony which is easier said than done. Don't worry though, I'll be taking you through it step by step in the video and the notes below. Enjoy!


Colour Harmony

Colour harmony is completely subjective as is everything in art - everyone's opinion differs on this, and here is my own opinion...

Including every colour in the spectrum in a painting produces colour anarchy. An explosion in a paint factory does not give us colour harmony. There are two major camps of thought on what constitutes the best harmony of colour in a painting. One has it that in any given scene it's the light upon that scene that limits the range of visible colours and so produces a naturally unified colour scheme. The second concept is that we must limit our actual palette of colours in order to produce a harmonious colour scheme on the canvas. Both ideas are valid and both ideas are based on the single concept of a reduced range of colours, or a 'gamut' of colours.

In this workshop we're going to explore the idea of using a limited colour gamut and a limited palette to achieve some sort of colour harmony. Hopefully this will be something new to you and it will open you to a whole world of creative possiblilties as it did for me when I first came across this idea a few years ago. It's ironic that by imposing more control on your colour making process you can in fact become more free than ever to explore the limitless possiblilites available to you. Very exciting stuff!


Click image to enlarge.    
Resource Photo

Resource Photo
Park Lane, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah, USA
Photo by Lorna Allan
The Setup
Completed project

Workshop Challenges

Challenge 1: Design

Use the resource photo above or your own resources. It must be a landscape. (Can be plein air).
Firstly, write down in a few brief words what it is about the scene that first stirs your emotions.
This will be the visual concept for your painting.
Here is a sample list to choose from:

Interesting Shapes
Great Color
Unusual Texture
Sharp Contrast
Quiet Simplicity
Fascinating Complexity
Morning or Evening Light
Weather Effects
Back Lighting
Horizontal Movement, vertical counter-movement
Light Shape suspended amid darks
Light Shape moving against Dark Shape
Light Shape separating dark shape from mid-value shape
Eruption of fragmented shapes and colors
Etc., Etc....

This list is from Robert Bissett.

Note that they are concepts, not things. A good painter begins with a strong visual concept to base a painting on.

With your chosen visual concept in mind, design a painting using at least 4 small notan sketches (2" wide). Then, using your favorite notan design, complete a limited value study (2"-5" wide). Use 3-5 values.

For more information on notan and limited value studies please view the workshop video or refer to these earlier workshops: Workshop1 and Workshop2.

photo   shadow and light families
Notan Designs   Limited Value Study


Challenge 2 : Colour Harmony

Using the Gamut Mask Tool make two or more different colour schemes. Paint 2 or more small colour thumbnail sketches using these colour schemes. (2"-5" wide) based on your limited value study.

Colour Harmony Designs


Challenge 3 : Larger Painting

Paint one larger painting (any size) based on your favorite colour thumbnail sketch. As in the previous workshop, pay attention to the light and shadow families and try to simplify your masses.

"Park Lane" 10x10" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

The goal of this workshop is not to create a masterpiece but to explore the possibilities of using the gamut mask tool to design harmonious colour schemes for your paintings. My painting was taken to a level of finish that allowed me to see the full colour scheme working together but feel free to take your final painting to any level of finish you like.

Toned Canvas: I 'toned' my canvas with a light warm gray acrylic and let it dry before I painted on it. This is another method to promote colour harmony because that base colour can be seen permeating through the finished painting. Some painters often prefer a cool toning for a warm painting and a warm toning for a cool painting. The darker or more vibrant the toning is, the thicker the paint needs to be to cover the toning sufficiently so it is often better to start with a lighter toning, although if you are wanting to try to paint more thickly a dark or vibrant toning would certainly encourage that.

You can learn more about colour harmony in my "Mastering Color" course, or at the Painting Academy.

Here's a video explaining how to analyse colour and value with a colour checker:

Can't see this video? Watch it on Youtube here:

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here:

Note: If you can't see the videos on this page (above) or on Youtube, I can't help with that sorry - there will be something wrong with your computer settings, but I'm no computer wiz. You would need to contact a computery person to fix that problem.


Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  

Painting Critiques

Sorry guys, not really any critiques this workshop because we're not trying for finished paintings as much as just learning about using the gamut mask. However, I've inserted below here some of the work which I think was done really well in terms of achieving the goals of the workshop. There were lots of them of course, but not enough room for everyone. The important thing is what you personally gained by considering the possibilites of using the ideas of visual concept, notan design and gamut mask colour design in how you approach your work. As always, those who do the most learn the most.

Barbara Grazer

Rita Melgert

Xiao Li

Aurelia Sieberhagen


Dorian Aronson


Chris Roughton


 Pauline Le Merle


Annie Hemsley


Li Ningning


Dania Bree.

In terms of a personal favorite this would have to be mine - beautiful subtly grayed colours with plenty of variation in warms and cools. Note how the green is threaded throughout the painting. Great work!


My final painting

The Setup

"Park Lane" 10x10" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson
Purchase the fine art print here >>


Demo Painting from workshop
Painting Workshop 10
'Park Lane'
Colour Harmony is often talked about, little understood and less used than all other painting techiques. This workshop aims to dispell some of the myths and arm you with a straight forward technique for achieving colour harmony in all your painting from here on in. We'll be using the Gamut Mask!
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