Arts & Activities  
      March Student Page      

      Concept, Composition, Confidence, Contrast, Color Harmony, Character, Courage      
      By Dan Bartges      
      Assignment 7 In A Series Of 10: CONTRAST, Part II      

Last month, we explored the crucial importance of tonal value (the light, medium and dark areas of a painting), and we mentioned that the viewer's eyes and brain are also stimulated by other kinds of contrasting elements. This month, let's set our course for those other contrasting elements—they can help make your paintings more successful.

Throughout this school year, we're discovering seven key ingredients in successful paintings and showing you how to use them in your artwork. So welcome aboard! As our voyage continues to unfold, you'll begin to see big improvements in your own artwork.

HOW IT WORKS Each month, simply read about the paintings featured on this Web page. Next, print out the "Quiz Me!" sheet, write in your answers to three short questions, then hand the sheet in to your art teacher. (The correct answers will be shared with you on the next month's Student Page.)

      CONTRAST, PART II      

l kinds of contrasts stimulate our eyes and brains. Yet when looking at a painting, we're often not consciously aware of the many visual contrasts, even though our subconscious is busy processing them. So when planning your next painting, consider how one or more of these contrasting elements might improve your picture:

COLOR There are several ways that colors can produce contrast. One of the most useful involves special pairs of colors called "complements." It's easy to identify these so-called "contrasting colors," because complementary colors always consist of two colors positioned directly opposite one another on a standard color wheel. In a painting, these pairs of colors are visually appealing because they naturally go together, so are called "harmonious."

      Any two colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel are called "complements" or "contrasting colors." These special pairs of colors will always harmonize with each other.      
      Therefore, using only complementary pairs of colors is a great way to include several different colors in a painting and still maintain color harmony.

As examples, various shades of red will harmonize with contrasting greens; oranges go with blues; yellow-greens with red-violets, etc. Each of these is directly opposite the other on the color wheel, and form a harmonious pair. (Please note: We'll be exploring more uses of color here next month.) For Roses on a Windowsill, only varying shades of two complementary colors (red and green) were used.
      Dan Bartges. Roses on a Windowsill. Oil.      
      DISTANCE Most good paintings and photographs have distinct foregrounds and backgrounds. These contrasting planes (near and far) create an impression of space and depth. (TIP: When painting backgrounds, remember that more distant objects get lighter and lose their color intensity. Distant colors shift towards grays, browns and blues.)

TEXTURE Varying textures can produce stark contrasts as in this memorable painting The Chinese Fishmonger by American artist Theodore Wores. How many different textures can you find in this painting?
      Theodore Wores (American; 1859–1939). The Chinese Fishmonger, 1881.
Oil on canvas; 34.75" x 46.125". Gift of Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson/Smithsonian American Art Museum.
      SIZE The comparative sizes of objects in a painting can be effective clues for determining those objects' identities, relative distances and importance. For example, because of the contrasting heights of the figures in the foreground of Little Village by Carl W. Peters, we know instantly that the red-capped person is a child.      
      Carl W. Peters (American; 1897–1980). Little Village, 1930. Oil on canvas; 42.5" x 48.25". Gift of Mrs. Carl W. Peters/Smithsonian American Art Museum.      
      DISTINCTIVENESS What's the most notice able part of this portrait of John Adams by the famous American artist Gilbert Stuart?

As with most good portraits, it's the subject's eyes. The artist deliberately directs our attention to Adams' eyes by painting them in sharp focus. Everything else in the painting—such as the subject's hands—is somewhat blurred or indistinct, and becomes, by contrast, less demanding of our attention.
      Gilbert Stuart (American; 1755–1828). John Adams, 1826. Oil on canvas; 30" x 25". Adams-Clement Collection/Gift of Mary Louisa Adams Clement in memory of her mother, Louisa Catherine Adams Clement/Smithsonian American Art Museum.      
      QUIZ ME!
Click here to download March Quiz Me! document
      Author: A full-time artist since 1996, Dan Bartges is the author of the book, "Color Is Everything," and two books on sports, "Winter Olympics Made Simple" and "Spectator Sports Made Simple." Visit his website at      

advertising | articles | A&A Online | back issues | contact us | departments
digital editions | links | reader service | search | subscribe | site map | store | writer's guidelines | home


Arts & Activities is a publication of Publishers Development Corporation.
Copyright © 2015 by Publishers Develoment Corporation. All rights reserved.
Arts & Activities® Magazine is a registered Trademark of Publishers Development Corporation.