This week, I am thinking about harmony. I have heard about it in several places and have been pondering how having harmony can affect a painting. I found several definitions of harmony in music and in art. I am paraphrasing them here. One said harmony in art is a composition of elements that creates unity and cohesion, giving a sense of completion of a piece. Another said harmony in music is a composition of individual sounds of simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitch and chords.
In an on-line workshop I took, the instructor talked about harmony as the phenomenon that helps colors feel connected. In my regular Wednesday art class, my instructor told us that we need to create harmony in our paintings to make an overtone of light throughout the whole painting using connecting notes of color. So I get it. Harmony is a good thing. Now-how do I make it happen? I have been a singer for many years and am well aware of how to make harmony happen in music, but in art? I 'm just a beginner. So here is what I have learned this week and a couple of examples of new pieces I have finished.
Notes of light: One of the things I love about this art class is that the instructor does not do demonstrations about how HE does things. He comes around to each of us to look at what we are doing in class, pieces in progress that we have brought to class, or pieces we finished in the past that are just not working and need something but we don't know what. Then when he finds a common thread, he takes a couple of pieces and puts them on the easels and calls everyone together for a critique and discussion. He looked at one of my pieces and those of two others in the class and asked for comments about them. I couldn't really put my finger on what I didn't like about my piece but a few others made comments. Then after the comments, he just walked up to the painting, took a brush with a totally unexpected color and put a few marks in strategic places. The results were remarkable. He created harmony in the piece by looking at the brightest element of the focal point and just repeating it with small "notes" that danced around the canvas. I loved it. His suggestions were so helpful the most important note I wrote after he talked about and then demonstrated harmonizing with notes of light was BE BOLD. As I wrote a few weeks ago, take a brush and say "what if I did this?" I'm working on that and it's really helping to elevate my ability to make a painting that is more cohesive and dynamic.
Color Mixing: The other thing I learned about harmony came from the on-line workshop I took with Nicholas Wilton from the Art2Life Facebook group. He talked about mixing colors to make even disconnected colors more harmonious. It's a simple concept but when he demonstrated it, it was amazing the difference it made. He painted swatches of a variety of un-related colors right from the tubes on the paper. Just as they were, they would make a painting that was disconnected and unpleasantly dissonant (of course if that's your intention- go for it!). Then he mixed all of the colors he had used to make the swatches together on his palette into a pile of "mud." He took a little bit of that mud mixture, mixed it with each original tube color and painted swatches of the new color next to the original ones. It was amazing. The colors were suddenly harmonious and looked great together.
My favorite definition that I think applies to both music and art is that each is made up of three elements: melody (color?), rhythm (brush work and composition?), and harmony. The first two can make a piece memorable but the last one, harmony, can elevate a piece from predictable to challenging and sophisticated. My work is cut out for me. Here are a couple of examples of the pieces I finished this week, working to find the harmony. Have a great week!