View Full Version : How much do you know about art?

Johannes Instructor
09-12-1999, 05:01 PM
Guess what. I've dreamed up a new idea for a forum. I will regularly post a question about composition, color theory etc. and we see how many different answers we get.

Johannes Instructor
09-12-1999, 05:05 PM
Ok here goes question #1.
What does it mean when a painting is harmonious in color?

Diana Lee
09-12-1999, 06:05 PM
Are you wanting an opinion or will this be a quiz? If there is only one correct answer to these questions you will be asking what do we get if we are right? I don't want to look like a fool in front of the whole class, can we e-mail our answers to you and you print them anonomously?


09-12-1999, 06:19 PM
hi johannes. your opinion, my opinion, or by-the-book opinion( which has no relavence to real life)? i can make red, green, blue and black harmonious on my canvas...milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

Johannes Instructor
09-12-1999, 06:24 PM
It is a quiz with the objective of surfacing
knowledge on different art aspects and a good measuring stick. I'd rather we post everything here for all to read. It is ok to consult books to come up with answers.If we can keep this forum going a lot will be learned, so any volunteers to provide the first answer?

Johannes Instructor
09-12-1999, 06:42 PM
Doesn't matter whose opinion. Just post your idea and we go from there. I will contribute to whatever I feel will be lacking.
Color harmony is a well known concept for centuries and applies to modern art and traditional.

[This message has been edited by Johannes (edited 09-12-99).]

09-12-1999, 07:40 PM
i'm just being ornery and contradictory, johannes. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif it's all about enlightenment. sometimes i feel it's my job to tweak the nose of convention. to say "hey, there are other options". i want to give artists "permission". so if i seem combatative, just take it as another opinion......milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

[This message has been edited by bruin70 (edited 09-12-99).]

09-12-1999, 10:36 PM
This is gonna be fun!! Let's see...What does it mean when a painting is harmonious in color?.....hmmm, that it's successful? ...LOL..ok, do we get to answer more than once in the same post....more than one posts....or is a one answer/one time only kind of thing?

09-12-1999, 11:25 PM
Time to whip out the ol' editorial pen and put in my two cents... :-)

What Johannes is driving toward is establishing an electronic "knowledge base" for our visitors. For instance, in this case, let's say we end up with 50 different views of what "color harmony" is all about. There is no wrong answer (well, maybe there is), but what it ends up doing is providing varying viewpoints on a topic for readers.

So, instead of buying a book from "Bubba Smith" that lays out his "rules for color harmony", a viewer can obtain many views on the same subject.

Okay - I'm done now ... :-)


09-13-1999, 12:22 AM
Let me see if I understand the question...
A 'harmonious' color scheme, would be when the colors used in the composition are analogous,...adjacent on the color wheel,...?

09-13-1999, 03:27 AM
I would say when all the colours are in sympathy with each other. One could use the same blue in all of your mixes or paint a glaze over the top of your painting, But do we want total harmony. Background possibly but I would prefer striking colours in the foreground,never a dull painting,?

09-13-1999, 03:53 AM
Here's what I think. In order for colours to have harmony, the general rule is cool colours in the distance and warm colours in the foreground. It doesn't matter what colours, as long as they generally follow that rule. A lot of complementaries are good too (such as those opposite on the colour wheel).

09-13-1999, 04:34 AM
scott,,,bubba's contribution to art and michigan state football cannot be passed over so lightly. those meathooks of his wielded a mighty delicate brush, as well as a nasty drive to the side of the oppositions' helmet off the snap... and his book should be well regarded here at wetcanvas http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif,,,,milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

Johannes Instructor
09-13-1999, 10:05 AM
Wow! This forum has had 12 replies already before 24 hours. I will wait for more opinions before I add mine and ask the next question.

09-13-1999, 01:09 PM
I agree with everyone so far, too. About the only other thing I can think of right now, would be the term "mostly". Making sure that the painting has mostly ONE color, then a glob of a secondary, then a dot of a tertiary. Or whichever way you choose to scramble them, like for instance we could use a teriary as our main color, then a secondary for the gaps, and the primary for our pizzazz. I think it's all about the rule of Thirds, without using a measuring cup for exactness.
I'm sure glad Johannes is going to outline & clarify our thoughts. Some things are easier done than said. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

09-13-1999, 08:54 PM
To be harmonious, colors have to have the same tonal values- yes, no?

09-14-1999, 12:48 AM
Lots of good answers already....color harmony to me is a combination of using LOTS of color, and carefully choosing both warm and cool colors. I've seen many paintings out there, where the colors didn't seem to harmonize, since there wasn't much color in the painting in the first place......brown barn, green grass, blue sky = boring!! I think the "harmony" part comes out when you add those unexpected touches or splashes of more colors, and they all seem to work together. Add just a touch of cool blue to that warm green grass! The more chances you take with color, you'll discover how to create color harmony.

09-14-1999, 07:24 AM
barj,,,,your answer is incorrect, but i am responding to you to ask if you understand what is meant by tonal value. you're kinda being redundant in that "tone", the lightness/darkness of a thing, is the same as "value",the lightness/darkness of a thing. for two colors to be of similiar value would be to say that they would be the same in lightness/darkness. now what you get with this arrangement is a rather unpleasant scheme, because the two(or more) colors would begin to "vibrate" in your eyes. this is a scheme used commonly in the 60's op art where a geometric composition would include like-value colors that would make the whole painting vibrate and irritate the eyes.....milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

09-17-1999, 03:29 AM
Hi Johannes,
Well ! I don't know how you are going to respond to these. We all await your reply,

09-17-1999, 01:49 PM
Color harmony is what is pleasing to the eye of the viewer. Yes, there are rules and theories, but the bottom line is, does the color relate to one another and the complete artwork?

09-18-1999, 10:11 AM
My opinion is that you would use the colors on your palette throughout the painting. I use about 8 different colors. I mix as I paint and unconsciously use some of these colors in different areas around the painting to keep a harmony.
Another way of keeping harmony is to paint a certain subject in mostly cool hues or in warm hues depending on the subject or feeling you want to portray.

Great forum.

Talmadge Moose
09-19-1999, 05:26 AM
When I was in art school back in the 1950's, I was told one sure fire way to achieve color harmony. You choose one pure color on your palette, keep that color pure, then mix a little of that color into each of the other colors on your canvas. I think there might me something to the theory, though I have not practiced it. I think the secret is probably whst several have suggested, and that is that color is a design element, and should be treated as such. Apply the same design principles to color as you would line, or value, or shape-mass, etc. Watch the contrast of colors, let one color be dominant, subduing all others by graying or changing the value up or down. I really don't believe there are any "rules" to produce color harmony. You just have to work toward a sensitivity to color through practice and observation. Taste?


09-19-1999, 03:36 PM
what you are talking about is a "mother color"....and that is the BEST way to unify discordant color. the mother color should be neutral, in a grey or brown vein, to allow the other colors to retain their integrity.

Johannes Instructor
09-19-1999, 06:21 PM
Some of you came up with good answers.
I will paste the correct answers below.
1. You choose one pure color on your palette, keep that color pure, then mix a little of that color into each of the other colors. Let one color be dominant. It should be a primary color.
2. Paint a certain subject in mostly cool hue or in warm hues. Keep one temperature predominant. Warm is the most widely accepted.
3. The word harmony inevitably leads one to think of music. Harmonies in music are pleasing (or congruent) arrangements of multiple tones. This also applies to color.

Here are some extra comments:
4. To follow these rules is important; otherwise we will have discordant vibrancy (noise). Some of you believe that color harmony is unimportant. That is fine if you are painting for yourself but most people enjoy seeing a painting that is harmonious much like most people mutually agree that certain songs are very pleasing. If we do whatever we want with color without worrying about their vibrancy then we would have music such as when the musicians are tuning their instruments before playing.
5. Tonal value is a different concept. That refers to the lightness and darkness, which also should be predominant and harmonious.
6. A painting done in analogous colors would probably be the best way to have harmony but the contrast of hues also helps create a mood and interest. An example of this would be when we have a blue hue next to an orange one. The two placed together will make each other sing louder and the warm will feel warmer because of its opposite being present.
7. A point was made about cool colors in the distance and warm in the foreground. This is a good guide in general to have atmospheric perspective but what about the beauty of a golden sun in a sunset casting light on a distant mountain?

In conclusion every serious artist should learn about color harmony and apply it. No matter what kind of art it is. We artists create art to please others and if we are serious about it we should do it in a way that most people will be comfortable with.

[This message has been edited by Johannes (edited 09-19-99).]

09-20-1999, 11:35 AM
Not trying to be picky, but shouldn't these art theory questions/lessons be in the art school online discussions or have a forum of its own? It's not really discussing a critique...

07-08-2001, 09:49 AM
Good idea Randy. I've moved three threads over to this forum... Color Theory/Mixing so that we can continue talking about this.

The Critique forum gets bogged down so fast that these got lost, and they are very old posts...so I don't think many folks have seen them.

All of Johannes questions to us might not fit completly in this forum, but this certainly is a great way to keep them together and maybe note that they do bleed over to composition and design at times.

I'd like to keep learning more...let's talk, we have so many new folks here now...maybe some have more to add.

Keith Russell
08-06-2001, 12:36 PM

Since the analogy of hamonious colour to harmony in music was mentioned, I felt compelled to add the following.

While good rules for achieving accurate colour harmony were given, it is important to realize that in art, as in music, 'perfect harmony' is boring. It appears mechanical, not organic and rich.

Yes, most people do not enjoy colour vibration, or dischordant colours. Still, some breaking of the rules--in music, vis a vis harmony, this is called dissonance--can make what would otherwise be a stale composition, interesting...spicy.

Yes, to be able to 'break the rules' successfully, one has to first know the rules, but the rules can be broken successfully, and with validity.

A little colour dissonance goes a long way, but often, a little is enough--and necessary.


Keith Russell
08-06-2001, 12:41 PM

Johannes said:
"We artists create art to please others and if we are serious about it we should do it in a way that most people will be comfortable with."

If this thread could be moved to debates, I'd be happy to take serious issue with the above statement.

Truth is not determined by majority consensus. 'Good' is not 'that which pleases the most people', and good art will thus not necessarily be 'the art which pleases most people'.

I, personally, do not paint to please others. I paint for myself, and am continually surprised when what I have created pleases anyone else, let alone pleases them enough that they choose to purchase what I've created.


08-06-2001, 01:27 PM
Well, I didn't move this thread over to debates, but I did start a new thread that contains the Johannes quote and Keith's request.

For those that would like to take this further in debates, here is the new thread ---> http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=16000

For those of you that would like to continue this thread in the light of Color Theory.... you are welcome to stay here.

So much to learn and enjoy. :)

08-06-2001, 10:49 PM
Personally I have this thing about harmony and I think almost all the paintings that I like are harmonious, at least I think of them in this way.

I don't think a painting has to have one hue or temperature to be harmonious although clearly either is a good route (and could be argued an easier route) to harmony. I also don't agree a dominating hue has to be a primary: green-dominated landscapes are quite common and can work superbly well. I do think a painting with a predominating value can be harmonious - where the value is clearly more important than the hue to the success of the finished work - high-key and low-key paintings can both work really well. The definition "pleasing (or congruent) arrangements of multiple tones" is a bit hard to pin down but I think it sums up most of the more complex images that 'work' for the viewer and seem harmonious.

I do think that harmony, especially in colour, is very subjective and based on a number of factors including cultural bias. I grew up near China and some of the colour combinations that the Chinese like are rather jarring to Western eyes, just as their music can be to our ears.


Keith Russell
08-07-2001, 12:57 AM

But I love Oriental music, especially Indian and Chinese.