Today’s painting depicts a view from my bedroom window. The manner in which it was painted can certainly be considered fast and loose. It is an impression after all. I jumped in and out quickly and that’s why I used “direct painting” as my painting method of choice.

I paint with relatively thick paint. I use white paint where I want lighter wash without using too much water. This approach can be also successfully used in an outdoor scenario where you want to put down your value shapes quickly.

In my previous lesson “Painting from Photographs” I go much more in-depth on the technical aspect of such approach. I encourage you to check it out if you want to find out more. Today I want to focus instead on a different aspect and that is the balance of our color shapes.

Balancing Color

As you can see the painting is evolving quite rapidly. The problem is to not lose focus and sense of the whole picture. It is easy to focus on the details, each individual shape or object. We must, however, focus on the picture as a whole.

The painting has been made in stages. You might not have noticed but there were 5 main stages. We are going to look at them one by one and see how process evolved.

Stage One


Excepting the preliminary drawing, stage one is all about establishing a color dominance and overall color scheme. I decided on a combination of yellow-violet. This, as we know, is a complementary palette. This palette is very easy to do but requires conscious effort as the range can be quite tricky. While we want some pure color accents, the majority of the painting is made up of muted color. This muted color needs to have a temperature dominance. Since yellow is our warm and violet our cool, we need to establish a color pattern of either warm or cool dominance. We can’t have equality. I already decided on a warm painting and as you can see I begin with very warm washes.

Notice the placement of the warm yellow shapes on the picture plane. They are inherently flat shapes with different sizes and directions. They are balanced against each other within the picture. Variation in color and value is a necessity to avoid boredom.

Stage Two


Stage two means adding cool shapes to balance the warm ones I painted in the previous step. Notice that I jump all around the picture. I also leave out shapes that I’m not sure need to be there until I progress further. It is better not to paint a shape than to try and repaint it later. This is not always possible but it’s something to keep in mind.

Notice again that the variety of shapes I added in this step is plentiful in color and size. The only problem I see is the top right shape that is very close in size to the one on the top left. I may address it in the next step.

Stage Three


I mentioned two things in the previous steps: 1. I leave out shapes unpainted if I’m not yet sure what to do with them and 2. The top right shape may need some balancing against the top left one.

As you can see, the top right shape has now been adjusted (below) by extending it to the right. I’ve chosen a little bit warmer wash because it approaches the edge of the paper.


Stage Four


Now that all my middle-value shapes have been painted in, leaving out the white negative shapes, I need to add some darks. These dark shapes will show off the white of the paper as well as emphasize depth. Dark recedes, light comes forward. By that rule the dark adds further dimension to the picture and clearly establishes planes.

Stage Five


As you could see on the image in the stage 4, the white shapes were not well defined yet. A pro tip: during the painting process, you can check this by squinting your eyes hard (way down), until you almost lose your vision. This way you can “read” the large masses of tone and better judge their position as well as their outer edge.

Some more shapes are added that are on the cool side but still quite warmed-up by the yellow. These refine the white shapes. Notice that they are lighter in value so they don’t contrast too much with the white shape.

Detail is added at this stage: you can see the symbol of an antenna, the windows and some calligraphic marks.

Final Result & Evaluation


This painting was painted more as an impression, which means detail was omitted to a large extent and the treatment is quite loose. Shapes are defined well enough, however, and color checks out after a final evaluation:

Notice the variety in the white shapes. These are varied in size and direction. They are puzzle pieces, “hugging” each other. They connect visually throughout the picture. The white shapes on the right hand side literally create visual steps into the painting.

The painting is predominantly warm. You can see that the toned-down shapes also contain a large amount of warmth. Notice that the coolest shapes are placed against the warmest (sky and distant hills), as well as the darkest shapes are played against the lightest (tower vs. farthest hills). The sky plane perhaps could use some less intensity but otherwise I’m pleased with the result.

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  1. 赵泽义 January 6, 2018 at 08:23


  2. J.P. Keslensky October 9, 2017 at 21:32

    Daniel, I really appreciate your detailed explanation of your steps. Understanding the care and thought that goes behind color choices, shape variations and placements is enlightening. When a viewer understands the thought behind the process it adds so much to the watching and re-watching of the demo. And more importantly it furthers our knowledge as students and artists.

    1. Daniel Novotny October 9, 2017 at 23:25

      Thank you J. P. Deeper understanding leads to deeper appreciation. I am glad your interested is genuine and I wish you to gain all the benefit you can from what I have to offer.


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