Category Archives: VALUE SCHEMES


farmlandWell, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.”  Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle.  This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework.  Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor.  I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes.  A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site.  Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register  (501- 851-4344).   I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.



Split complementary

The split-complementary color scheme is just what it says:  the complement of one color is split on either side so that it is a 3-color scheme.  What happens is that one color temperature becomes dominant and the other is subordinate.  Another way of looking at is is to select three analogous colors and then look for the complement of the middle color.  In this way, a harmonious relationship is provided as well as an accent color that enlivens the composition.  This color scheme is found in nature most often with the hues blue, green, and orange.

To choose your colors, ask yourself what mood you want to convey.  Cool colors convey a feeling of peace and calm while warm colors could be used to show activity, vibrancy, brightness.   One or two colors could be neutralized while the accent color is used in its intensity.

In my first example, I used a split-complementary scheme of yellow, orange-red, and blue violet.  The analogous colors where used predominantly, and the blue-violet was subdued and used only sparingly.  It’s a hot summer day!


In my second example, I used a split-complementary scheme of red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow.  The warms are dominant, and the yellow is partly subdued.  A night scene is suggested.  This is a good exercise for you to try – let me know how it turns out!









     In this abstracted 16 x 16″ landscape, I was trying to use one of the six basic  value  schemes mentioned by Edgar Whitney.  The scheme was a little dark with a lot of light in medium values.  I seldom use this value scheme; that’s why I wanted to try it.  I also wanted to continue breaking up the picture plane into sections, but still be able to lead the eye movement to the center of interest (the barn in the upper right area).  As usual, I worked out the value and color scheme in my sketchbook and decided to use a split-complementary color scheme: blue, red orange, orange, and yellow orange.  The acrylic colors I used were Cadmium Orange, Hansa Yellow, Indian Yellow,  Thalo Blue, Prussian Blue, Raw sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cadium Red Light and Titanium White.  (At least, that’s what I think I used — hard to remember now!)




The colors featured here are blue-green, green, and yellow-green.  Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel present a very harmonious, related color scheme.  One color needs to be dominant, another as subordinate, and the other should be in between.  Lighter and darker values as well as their neutrals can be used.  The colors you choose can express different moods – for example, colors on the red side of the wheel can express warmth, joy, excitement.  Paintings in which the colors have all been neutralized can suggest a mood of a foggy, misty, or rainy landscape.  In the study below, I chose to use yellow, yellow-orange, and orange as my three analogous colors.  Yellow is dominant, orange is subordinate, and yellow-orange is the intermediate.

As it states on the left — use of analogous colors lead to a “harmonious but potentially boring” color scheme.  As you can see in my example below, it would be much better if another accent color had been used — maybe a bright blue for interest!  Remember, these are just studies — learning how to use different color schemes — don’t be tied down to them!

analogous barn



With Halloween on its way, I thought I’d post a couple of strange paintings I’ve made lately.  Both of these are in pastel, my favorite medium.  You will note that the image above is of the same barn that I’ve been using for the color theory exercises.  For some reason, I’m really fond of this scene.  However, I tried it in a different value scheme — one suggested by Edgar Whitney in his book on watercolor.  This value scheme is a lot of dark with a little light in mid-values.  I hadn’t used this scheme deliberately before, and it ended up as a night-time painting — even a little disturbing – who knows what’s lurking inside that old barn! The painting is 12 x 16″ and is unframed – price is $175.

The Stoic

I didn’t intend for this painting to be spooky, either; I was merely playing around with background color – using intense watercolors for the underpainting.  The bare tree looms up into the sky, and it looks like a skeleton against the sky, pleading for deliverance!  The name of this painting is The Stoic — 24 x 28″ framed and for sale at $475.