Mood and Atmosphere

NOTE: For some odd reason, Word Press has not been cooperative where this post is concerned. Despite careful editing and re-editing, the post has appeared in some places without any spacing between paragraphs. I’ve resolved the problem currently by inserting “dashes” between paragraphs. Why this problem is happening, I have no idea. Forgive me if you’re reading this oddly-spaced post. I will continue to edit until I can fix the problem.


What elements create mood and atmosphere in an oil painting? That’s precisely the question I’m exploring now as I make my way through the next 100 days. I hope to do more than merely answer the question. My hope is that as I continue reading, learning, and practicing, I will be able to create landscapes that do reflect both mood and atmosphere.

For me, words are always important. They are the tools I use to understand the world around me, and as the art world is still relatively new to me, it’s necessary for me to explore it in large part through words. I need to clearly define terms in order to understand various concepts.

Accordingly, I’m beginning this 100-day journey by considering those two very important words. Mood. Atmosphere. What are they, really? What do they mean to us as artists?

I found this helpful definition of mood:

“In art appreciation, the general atmosphere, or state of mind and feelings, that a work of art generates. For example, the mood of a painting could be disturbing or tranquil, dark or energetic. Color is one of the most effective ways to create a mood in a work of art.”  — From B & C Guides

My search for information about atmosphere pulled up a markedly similar result:

Mood is the atmosphere in a painting, or the feeling expressed. Is the art tranquil, or is it dark and disturbing? Artists use light and dark colors to convey a mood or an emotion.” — From – Understanding Visual Art

Essentially, when it comes to visual art, we find these words — mood, atmosphere, emotion — jumbled up together, often in close association with ideas of thoughts, feelings, and reflections. Sometimes memories are included, too. In other words, mood and atmosphere in visual art refers to how we feel when we look at a painting or other work.

As noted in the quotes above, light and dark colors are often used to convey different emotions. From my own experience as an artist and my previous studies of color theory, I know, too, that different colors have emotional connotations.

So, during the next 100 days, I’ll no doubt be working with a lot of different colors, learning more about using colors and creating the proper values. One expression we hear often in art is that “Value does all the work, but color takes all the credit.”

Yesterday — even though my day got off to a slow start — I did finish my first 100-day painting “assignment” as I begin learning about creating mood and atmosphere. The idea behind this assignment was to develop an understanding of the basic procedures for oil painting:

  • Sketching the basic shapes of the scene
  • Blocking in the large masses of color
  • Dividing the masses into more recognizable objects
  • Tweaking with details as necessary

Does this sound familiar to anyone? It is, of course, the same basic procedure used for drawing landscapes.

Here is my untitled painting:

Untitled – Oil on 8 x 10 Canvas Panel – Study 1 in Mood and Atmosphere

I began with a coral-toned canvas panel, and I used primarily warm colors, with a slightly cooler blue for the sky. I followed each of the steps, using a reference photo from Mood and Atmosphere in Oil Painting by Carolyn Lewis.

As I painted I tried to follow the “shapes and colors” I saw in the reference photo, making sure I used several different greens — a dark, a medium, a light — and various yellow-orange hues.

The big question is this: Does this painting have any mood or atmosphere about it? For me, this painting has a feeling of warmth. It gives me a comfortable feeling. It reminds me of a day in the country, playing in the fields, looking off toward distant hills.

Another aspect of atmosphere should be noted here, I think. Atmosphere is part of atmospheric perspective, which is that sense of distance and depth we hope to achieve in a painting. I think this painting shows a bit of atmospheric depth as well as some atmospheric mood. Either way we choose to define the word, I think I can see and feel amtosphere in this landscape.

What about you? When you view this landscape painting, do you feel any specific emotions? Do any thoughts or memories come to mind for you? I’d love to know what mood and atmosphere you see in this painting, and I hope that as I continue learning and practicing, I’ll be able to bring more and more of these emotional elements into my landscape art.


  1. The hint of the purple mountain on the right lends itself to the atmospheric perspective. The sky has a cool autumnal feel that you find in October around here. The warmth of the yellow ochre and orange are a marked contrast to the clouded sky. It feels like a comfortable walk through that field. The atmosphere is inviting. But have a jacket on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the painting. I think the colors are reminiscent of changing seasons. Maybe I should paint a similar scene and imagine what it might look like during the winter months. That would be interesting!


    1. Word Press is very frustrating at times! I wrestled with that post for hours, thought it was fixed, and then it reverted to the old version with no paragraph spacing. 😦


    1. Even when I went through and added additional spaces, it wasn’t working. The only solution I could find was to insert those dashes between paragraphs. 😦


  2. you are new to art? i would never have guessed! i’ve been at it for about 15 years or so and cannot tell you much of anything about color theory and the like.For me, everything was trial and error ( self taught) and i never really got into the lingo or theory of it all. i love seeing your work and watching your progress:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I love watching fellow artists work at plein air events. I’ve never attempted it as part of the group, but I have gone out a couple of times on my own. Neither trip was too productive. I haven’t yet figured out how to assemble all I need and transport it back and forth. We have a beautiful park nearby with several hiking trails. I take a lot of photos there and then paint from them as references. I would like to get more comfortable with plein air painting. I think that would help me add more “mood and atmosphere” to my landscapes.

      Liked by 1 person

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