Putting the Principles into Practice

I’ll be honest. My brain is fried. After learning about Kelvin measurements, light temperatures and principles of inversions between lights and shadows and temperatures… well, yeah. Let me say it again. My brain is fried.

Sometimes landscape painting seems simple enough, but when it is simple, it’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. Remember Degas and his claim that “painting is easy when you don’t know how, and very difficult when you do”…?

The more I learn, the more challenging painting becomes. There are more things to think about, more guidelines to follow, more essential art principles to keep in mind. After so much mental study yesterday, I decided the best way to get a good grasp on the principles of light temperature and color temperature and the effects of lights and shadows would be to pull out a canvas panel and do a quick study.

Here is what I ended up with:

My sunset sky definitely needs a bit of blending! Mostly what I was doing with this piece was alternating temperatures between lights and shadows. I stayed with a warm cadmium yellow and raw umber for areas in the light, then worked with a cool black for shadows. The light in the sky included both cadmium yellow light and cadmium  yellow medium, with touches of a cool gray — tinged with pthalo blue — surrounding the light.

I fiddled with it maybe more than it needed, but I am starting to understanding how the principle of “warm light/cool shadow” does work to not only add depth and dimension to the painting but also to suggest mood and atmosphere. I can sense a little “atmosphere” in this painting because of the light, and I can understand that the light wouldn’t work without the cooler shadows.

So, for me, even though it’s been rough on the old brain, this represents a lesson learned. Not one mastered yet, but I think I’m getting a good understanding of the principles involved. This new understanding will definitely help me move forward in my landscape paintings.



  1. One of the aspects of teaching yourself is wanting to know too many things/principles/ideas at once. As you discovered, warm colors advance and cool colors recede. Stick with that color temperature idea and play with it. Take that piece you did and use another pair of warm and cool colors. See what happens.
    As to the Degas quote, if painting were easy, many more people would succeed.
    Keep on keepin’ on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m currently doing a series of “quick studies” similar to what you’ve suggested. I’m painting a simple landscape scene over and over, each time using different color temperatures. It is interesting to compare the paintings and see how each makes me feel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like your progress, keep up the practice. Judith’s idea is a great way to help your practice. Just using one type of simple landscape over and over and experimenting with changes of color/temperatures/ moods.. a great way to stay loose and have fun with painting!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much. I hope you do find a bit of inspiration here from time to time, and don’t worry about “weird”. 🙂 We all have our weird moments.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, I’m sure my readers will get tired of viewing the same scene over and over as I share more of my “quick studies”, but I hope others can learn from my experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Later on I do have a post publishing that will show a number of “quick studies” using different temperatures and different value ranges. It’s interesting to see them and compare them.


  2. This is a beautiful painting. I would gladly frame & display it in my study as is. At first glance, I immediately thought of what Venus might have looked like eons ago back when it had vegetation & a habitable atmosphere on some random plateau.

    On that note, I would argue that in one way or another art, regardless of medium, is perpetually developmental in some way, shape, or form. One completed project inspires another that can assume newer, higher, & in some cases more refined dimensions.

    However, depending on the work, what is perceptibly complete to one is incomplete to another & vice versa. Hence, it all comes down to a question of perception which is descriptive of applied states of mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very insightful comments! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and thank you so much for the kind words on my painting. The comparison to Venus is especially interesting. If you read this morning’s post, you’ll see that I’ve been guided (by the cosmos) to learn more about the universe. So interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

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