R & B Art

Who likes rhythm and blues? Well, guess what. That’s not what today’s post is all about. The R & B in art, you see, stands not for rhythm and blues, but for rhythm and balance.

Rhythm and Balance (2)
Rhythm and Balance – Poster paint on Newsprint

The painting here is one of many I’ve done using my poster paints and newsprint for practice sessions. The lesson I was learning with this exercise was focused on creating both rhythm and balance. Did I succeed? I’m not sure. I think I did all right with the rhythmic aspects, but I’m not sure about the balancing. What do you think?

Using rhythm in art means creating a sense of movement, usually through repetition. We can create rhythm with lines, shapes, and colors. In my practice exercise, I chose to use a scallop-like series of lines to create the rhythm. I wanted it to feel a bit bouncy but also confortable and familiar.

For me, the concept of balance was a little harder to achieve. Even though I understand the idea of creating balance in our compositions, for this exercise I was supposed to focus primarily on using colors as a means of achieving balance.

I’ve learned that there are four types of colors we can use in painting:

  • Bright colors or hues, also called pure colors. These can be primary, secondary, or tertiary colors but they are bright because they’re used in their pure form. They attract a viewer’s attention. I used both red and green as bright colors.
  • Dull colors appear flatter. They are created by mixing a bright color with its complement. In my painting, for instance, I took my red and added a touch of green to create a dull, rusty-looking red.
  • Light colors, of course, are known as tints. They are made by adding white to a pure hue. You’ll see light pink in my painting.
  • Dark colors. The opposite of tints are shades. These are made by adding black to a pure hue. I added black to green to make a darker shade.

I also mixed in a bit of yellow — just sort of playing around and having fun. I felt that the painting needed something in addition to the reds and greens I was using.

Please excuse the wrinkled appearance. This is on newsprint, and newsprint does wrinkle when you paint on it with poster paints and water.

Here are some of the key points from this practice exercise:

  • Because bright colors are assertive and draw attention, they should be used for smaller areas of a painting.
  • Dark colors can be used in the next-larger areas.
  • Dull colors should be used for the next-larger areas.
  • Light colors can be used for the largest areas of a painting.

These ideas come from Arnold Fletcher in his book Oil Painting Step by Step. I have to admit that these concepts are a bit confusing and have led to a lot of questions in my mind. Nevertheless, I’m following his series of exercises, and I am having fun with it. Whether or not I learn anything remains to be seen.

When it comes to balance, color plays an important role, of course.

  • Both bright and dark colors may feel heavy and  weighty in a painting. Keep them toward the bottom of the painting or your work might seem top-heavy.
  • By using light colors, we can counter-balance the heavier areas of a painting.
  • We don’t want to create an even-looking balance. In other words, instead of balancing one heavy area with an area that’s equal, we should use several smaller shapes to offset the larger one.

Again, all of this is a bit complicated and confusing, and Fletcher admits it may sound a bit “clinical” and “contrived”.  Balance, he explains, is something that we eventually learn to do naturally, and in my painting, I relied on instinct more than Fletcher’s principles. I looked at my shapes as I painted in various colors. I thought about balance. You’ll see that I did follow Fletcher’s suggestion to use a large, light area (upper right) to balance the reds in the lower left. Beyond that, I just painted different colors in a way that felt right to me.

Did I successfully achieve balance in this painting exercise? Please let me know what you think about the choices I made.

As for rhythm, I think I did all right there, but what do you think? When you look at this poster-paint practice exercise, do you feel any sense of movement? Do you hear or feel any rhythm?

I’m fascinated by both these concepts and will be learning — and sharing — more in future posts, so be watching!




  1. It’s interesting to read the art theories you’re studying. They’re different from what I was taught. Our teachers said balance isn’t good. They said the mind seeks balance and if you give it balance the eye instantly moves on to the next thing. To keep the viewer looking longer you need to make focal points so the eye goes back and forth over the painting. You can make focal points by having more contrast either between complimentary colors or between sharp value contrasts. The focal point should never be in the center of the canvas, that makes the composition static. or a bright spot like a sun because the eye goes there and stops. They called that” the red circle trick”, like a store puts up big red spots at the sale items.
    Those are just a few more things to consider. Composition isn’t my strong point, though. It’s not easy. It’s good that you’re exploring that. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Art theories can be very confusing and contradictory, and I don’t think there are any definitive answers. So, I explore, I learn what I can, and I go on. Essentially it comes down to one thing in the end: do we like what we see? Rules are useful, but they can also get in the way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. I do not paint oil, but I like to play with colours. I have to think a little bit about the Fletcher’s theory and eventually I’ll try something. Pastels probably. But personally I like slightly unbalanced images…and R&B …music !
    Thanks for the interesting post, soemthing I’ll think about 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m always delighted when something I share becomes a bit thought-provoking. Balance in art is a tricky concept. Symmetry (which is perfect balance) is boring and frowned upon, so we need to discover a somewhat asymmetrical balance — which is a bit of an oxymoron, really. It’s little wonder I get tripped up and stumble around the art world LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’re right. Just as our bodies strive for “stasis” it can’t really be attained or we would cease to exist. We have to be a little off-balance all the time. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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