Australian Fine Artist

Workshop Number Four of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

Light in Colour

Colour expresses emotion and has its own soul. It invites viewers to have an emotional and human connection with an artwork. By muting or exaggerating colour an artist can manipulate the viewer response. Certain colours will already have certain feelings connected with them, such as red creating feelings of movement, anger, passion etc.

How we manipulate colour and how light affects it will determine whether your painting will work or not. That is why when we see paintings by famous and successful artists, there are things we can discern in them that make them work so well regarding their use of light and colour.

Colour Harmony

When we see a painting that works, it usually has colour harmony. by that I mean that the artist has manipulated whatever he has seen or imagined, to make the colours work with each other. This can be a result of several reasons, amongst which are:

  • Understanding grey tonal values
  • Keeping the selection of colours within a certain range on the colour wheel (analogous for example)
  • Creating harmonious colours by selecting a dominant hue, working with complementaries or split complementaries as the accent, or
  • Creating a harmonious lighting effect.

Colour Contrast

Creating contrast in your painting will help to create atmosphere and depth. This can be achieved by the temperature of the painting, the intensity of the colours or using the composition to help the colours to create contrast.

Neighbouring Colours

Light and shadow create your shapes, the darks in particular, will create form, the highlights and midtones will indicate the quality of the light, for example if it is strong daylight, early morning, summer, winter, cloudy etc.

The most important thing to remember when thinking about light and colour is that the light will always effect the colour. A warm light will warm up colours, so if you were looking at something white in a warm lighting situation, it would not be pure white, it would pick up some of the warmth from around it. This is the case with all colours, they will always be affected by the lighting situation they are surrounded by whether natural or artificial.

Try practising in different lighting situations with the same set of colours to see how the results differ with the same subject.

Below is the painting I did on the day, I have red arrows marking where David made suggestions to improve my work. This is a valuable part of the workshops for me, and I always look forward to how those last touches by David can raise my work to the next level. Seeing them done is very helpful in my progress as he always explains how I can apply these myself on my next effort.


Enjoy your painting and if you are interested in beginners lessons I am now available for private classes but bookings must be made in advance as places are limited. For more advanced classes refer to David’s website details below.

David Chen’s workshops are in very high demand and many are booked out in advance, but you can go on to a waiting list as sometimes spaces open up. If you would like to go on the waiting list, you can contact David via his website:

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

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