Color Studies for Painters 1.1; Monochromatic Harmony


This alla prima study will be done all in one session, about 2 1/2 hours long, using the first color harmony study in this series.

Monochromatic harmony, means a color selection of only one hue, in this case, blue. We are painting blue water in a textured glass, using (cerulean) blue. It is toned more neutral and darker by mixing it with it’s complement orange (cadmium yellow light- our warm yellow- with cadmium red deep). We create lighter tints by adding titanium white. And I’m using my new Gamblin Oil Paints. Love!


We’re going to cheat just a little bit and make the blue a little greener by adding a smidgen of cool yellow (radiant lemon light).

While the entire painting should have the appearance of the chosen dominant color (blue), we deepen and darken it’s value as needed, either using its’ complement, and or allowing a tiny amount of ivory black. For homework assignments, students will repeat this exercise using the same harmony, choosing the opposite complement that was used in class, as the dominant color.

When beginning the painting, sketch out the shape of the object loosely, and block in the background. Catch the light and dark shapes using all the different values and colors mixed ahead of time. My glass is on the left. A glass with violet water sits alongside.




Generalize your value shapes and light/dark intersections. Remember to exaggerate contrasts sometimes to make a point. Background and foreground values should either 1.contrast light against dark, or 2. accentuate light against light or dark against dark – or more often be a hybrid of the two.

More on mixing complements and creating a color chart as a  warm up exercise and reference tool in the next post.

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