Painting with the neighbors

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As painters we delight in the colorful neighborhoods in which we live. Some dwell in the orbed community of Albert Henry Munsell, a fabulous multi-level dwelling of various hues, tints, and shades, connected by an elevator shaft that runs through its core from north to south. (Click images to enlarge)

The Albert Henry Munsell development

My current residence is the blue-violet house. Sir Isaac Newton is the developer of this twelve-dwelling neighborhood.


The community in which I’m presently living however is shaped like a disc or Frisbee. It was, most folks believe, designed by Sir Isaac Newton. My house is painted in a wonderful blue-violet hue, while my two neighbors to the west choose to dwell in homes of violet and red-violet. Pretty intense to say the least! Those two houses to my right have their places painted in blue and blue-green, although the guy next door in the blue house considers himself to be one of the primary houses in our 12-home development. However, for this blog post my violet neighbor and I are taking over. The five of us have assumed the name “Broad Analogous” or “Extended Analogous” because we are slightly more inclusive than those “Basic Analogous” folks that only think of themselves and those immediately next door.

My “Broad/Extended Analogous” neighbors…painting buddies.


Anyway, we’ve been painting together, my neighbors and I; but I’ve also learned that others in our 12-home community also went out painting, so I’ll be sharing some of the things they’ve done also.

Well, enough of my imaginary neighborhood…

Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow Pale were used to create this analogous color scheme. The three paintings below were all done using this palette.

“Heading South” – 9.5″x 13.25″ – Oil…The wonderful discovery made in this painting was the use of blue-green to illuminate the light side of the silos and to accentuate the lights of the train. Dominant hue here is something between blue-violet and violet.

Color study – 4.5″x 6″ – Oil. Same analogous color scheme, this time with blue-violet dominate.

Color study – 4.5″x 6.75″ – Oil. This is a preliminary study done for a larger painting completed a few years ago. In this case the complement orange was used as an accent.

“The Tonight Show” – 16″ x 24″ – Oil


Experiments in color, using the basic 12-step color wheel are on-going with me. Although the experiments are basically simple…and not always successful or refined, they invariably prove to be rewarding and even challenging.

At the root of the color studies is the desire to eliminate as many colors from the palette as possible and yet still be able to successfully achieve a very pleasing result. As artists working with color every day that seems pretty insane I know, but the fewer colors on the palette also means that what is on the palette must be used and intermixed, thereby guaranteeing a harmonized painting. I love Richard Schmid’s saying… something to the affect, “Why have a trio when you can have a symphony?”…and that makes perfect sense, but for me I prefer the “less is more” approach.

When using the three primaries, as in an equilateral triad, it’s not a big deal to be able to mix just about every color needed. However, it becomes more challenging when at least two of the primaries are eliminated…as in all complementary and quadratic selections…and in most of the triad and analogous combinations. (All this is thoroughly explained in my recent book and DVD. Details on both at the end of this blog post.)

I love the challenge of working with small sections of the color wheel, and I’m often amazed to discover how colors can be made to look like something they’re not…solely because of their relationship to their surroundings.

“Setting Sun Over Missouri Farm” – 3.75″x 7.5″ – Oil…Violet, red-violet, red, red-orange, and orange was the palette selected for this piece


When working with analogous color schemes, as in the samples shown here, I prefer to use a broad analogous scheme (5-colors in a row) as opposed to the typical 3-color arrangement. Five colors allow one to mix something close to gray, whereas the 3-color analogous eliminates that possibility entirely. So how does one mix gray with an analogous color scheme? Choose the two colors most distant from one another.

This scheme of red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, and yellow-green yields a very unique painting…as seen below.


The same analogous color scheme as above, except with the addition of ivory black.


Some folks suggest adding ivory black to an analogous palette in order to create more variety. To me that sort of negates the beauty of a pure analogous selection. Others suggest adding the complement of the dominant analogous hue as an accent, and that works really well.  The temptation of course, with any restricted palette, is to dip into the paint box for that “needed” color; big mistake. Once a color scheme is selected, you cannot start adding additional colors to it; if you do, you’ll most likely end up with a disjointed, inharmonious painting.

Study for “Winter Dusk” – 4.5″x 6.88″ – Oil…Blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green.


If you haven’t tried an analogous color scheme before, why don’t you get out there and invite your neighbors to go painting with you? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to what great companions they are…and they live right next door.

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I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

For those that have purchased the book, I invite you to join our new Facebook Group – “Limited Palette Unlimited Color”. If you qualify, I hope you’ll join us. Check us out on Facebook. HERE is the link.


Want to take your painting to the next level? I can help. Click HERE to learn about my critique/mentoring programs.


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


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