Virtual Art Academy

Using a Secondary Color Harmony to Create Beautiful Landscapes

Cat. No. 1137 Zhaosu Kasakh Village, The Mountains Beyond - 30cm x 24cm - Oil on Linen - 2015 - collection Yan Ruming
Zhaosu Kasakh Village, The Mountains Beyond by Barry John Raybouid

What is color harmony?

Much of the pleasure from viewing a painting is derived to a large extent from the harmony of colors used in it. Creating this harmony is the key to beautiful color work and a major part of the visual music of the painting. Harmony in art is basically an orderly relationship of colors, just as a musical harmony is an orderly relationship of notes, or rhythmic harmony that creates a masterful poem. The primary color harmony in art is: red, blue, and yellow. These three hues are the bases of all other hues.

In art, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. The human brain requires an inner sense of order, it prefers to see something it recognizes as balanced, not jarring. If the painting is not harmonious, the viewer perceives it as boring or chaotic. We reject under-stimulating information, and conversely if it is too chaotic we can’t stand to look at it. The artist’s task is to present a logical structure for our viewers. Color harmony delivers the visual interest and a sense of order.

What is a secondary color harmony and when is it used?

secondary color harmony

The secondary color harmony is made by mixing together each of the primary colors. So the three secondary hues are orange (red + yellow), green (blue + yellow), and violet (blue + red).

This harmony is sometimes used in landscape work, as it is so often seen in nature. The warm oranges occur in the foreground, the greens in the foreground and middle ground, and the violets in the distance. This harmony it is not as flexible as the tertiary harmony.

Secondary color harmony in practice

Cat. No. 1137 Zhaosu Kasakh Village, The Mountains Beyond - 30cm x 24cm - Oil on Linen - 2015 - collection Yan Ruming
Zhaosu Kasakh Village, The Mountains Beyond by Barry John Raybouid

In this small Kasakh village in the province of Xinjiang, in the far northwestern reaches of China, many of the original mud and straw buildings are still left.

This gives the village a warm and welcoming feeling. With the areas of grass to provide some green color spots, I included an area of the mountains in the distance to provide a violet color spot and complete a secondary color harmony composed of the secondary colors: orange, green, and violet.

Secondary color harmony paintings by Old Masters

Notice in these Old Master paintings that some of the colors are very saturated, and some are less saturated, but the secondary color harmony still works.

Mont Sainte Victoire by Paul Cezanne
Mont Sainte Victoire by Paul Cezanne
Stormy Sea Breaking on a Shore by Joseph Mallord William Turner
Stormy Sea Breaking on a Shore by Joseph Mallord William Turner
Irises by Vincent Van Gogh
Irises by Vincent Van Gogh
Woman at Her Toilette by Berthe Morisot
Woman at Her Toilette by Berthe Morisot

To learn more about different color harmonies

To learn more about the concept of balanced color harmonies, see Workshop H of the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program.

I started learning oil painting with VAA from scratch. Just one year later my paintings started to sell

The Virtual Art Academy program is really comprehensive and gave me all the information and directives to learn painting in one package. The material is very well organized, just beautiful to look at and motivating to carry through. The online campus is a wonderful place to meet other artists and receive critical feedback on my progress – a place to make and meet friends. I started with the program in June 2012, to learn oil painting from scratch. Just one year later my paintings have start to sell.

Thomas Ruckstuhl
Germany
Mannheim
Using a Secondary Color Harmony to Create Beautiful Landscapes

Add comment

A University Experience

Learn about my structured and comprehensive online painting classes.

LEARN MORE

Want More Free Tips?

Pin
Share