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Lessons are listed from most recent to earliest.  Scroll down to see all 170 lessons.  

Series Forty: Merging Shapes

Giving priority to how a painting is composed adds strength to the entire work.  One way we can do that is to control how each image belongs to the rest of the painting.  Rather than defining each shape independently, we can give unity and order by finding ways to merge shapes. The four lessons in this Series explores ways to do that.

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Series Thirty-nine: Creating Distance

As images move into a distance their characteristics gradually change.  We will see value contrasts decreasing from strong to close, hues might gently merge from one to another, intensities often become more neutral, textures can progressively disappear, and sizes will steadily become smaller. We can create distance in our paintings by creating these changes in our images.  The four lessons in this series guide us in that direction.

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Series Thirty-seven: Working with shadows

How we treat areas in shadow can make or break the life of our images, but also can be a determining factor in the strength of a painting’s composition.  In this series, we learn that interpreting shadows involves more than making them darker.  We can find within varying degrees of darkness color differences, texture variations and temperature changes.

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Series Thirty-six: Composing Shapes

Shapes occur whenever a single area of space becomes two due to edges surrounding a portion of the space.  Shapes form the images with which the artist works and are therefore a necessary part of any visual work.  How the artist treats those shapes is a major portion of the composing process In this Series, Dianne explores four ways we can handle shapes for composing our interpretations of our subjects or concepts.

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Series Thirty-five: Compose Like Sargent

John Singer Sargent is among the most revered of historical realistic painters.  Many students copy his paintings in an attempt to learn his secrets.  But there’s another way:  rather than copy Sargent’s works outright, we can discern how he used a principle, then apply that same method to a study using a totally different subject. In this Series, Dianne goes deep into four of Sargent’s methods by doing just this.

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Series Thirty-four: Balance Like the Masters

Rather than copy master works outright, one of the best ways to study master painters is to discern how they used a principle, then apply that same method to a study using a totally different subject. In this Series, from four historical master painters, Dianne discovers in each a principle used to achieve balance, then finds a way to do a study that applies the same method these masters used for applying that principle.

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Series Thirty-three: Steelyard Balance

Balance is about visual stability, a necessity to prevent our paintings from feeling topsy-turvy.  The steelyard balance, invented by the    Romans centuries ago, moves the vertical axis from the center to one side, providing the ability to balance heavy weights near the axis with lighter weights located further away from the axis.

The four lessons in this series explore how steelyard balance works and how using it creatively can enrich to our paintings.

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Series Thirty-two: Unraveling Intensity

Intensity, also called chroma, is the degree of saturation of a hue.   Every hue has the potential to exist in at least six degrees of saturation before becoming totally neutral.  Add to this that each of these has the potential for at least eight degrees of value.  Knowing how to create these can give an abundance of freedom to create when painting.

This series addresses how we can unravel that potential.

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Series Thirty-one: Working in Direct Sunlight

Under direct sunlight, the position of the sun and the position of the viewer effect our perception of everything we see.  Not only that,  but direct light actually gives us three different light sources:  the sun itself, the sky and reflected light from illuminated images.  This   series addresses how the location of the sunlight effects the way we see color according to its orientation to the sun itself.

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Series Thirty: Applying Color Schemes

When French Impressionist Claude Monet did multiple studies of a single scene, he was interpreting rather than describing what he saw.  Often to enhance his impressions, he would transpose the local color into a color scheme. A color scheme is a limited set of colors with a relationship found on the color wheel.  Like Monet, these four lessons each use a different color interpretations for the same scene.

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Series Twenty-nine: Relating Color & Value

Color is fluid.  Its hue changes according to how much light it is  receiving or the quality of shadow covering it.  Changing the value of color then, requires more than just adding a lighter or darker    value.  It requires observing how the hue changes as well.  This    series breaks this down according to what happens in direct light and in diffused light.

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Series Twenty-eight: Using Alternation

In visual composing, alternation means a sequence of repeated changes.  The two things alternating often are contrasted elements or technical maneuvers.  We use alternation to create a dynamic movement throughout our paintings. This series explores four types of alternating most commonly used by master painters.

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Series Twenty-seven: Balancing Color

We balance color by how we distribute it throughout the canvas, whether by proportions, by repetition or a combination of the two.  Four major kinds of color balance are symmetrical, asymetrical, radial and mosaic.  This series explores four traditional uses of asymetical color balance.

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Series Twenty-six: Preventing Muddy Color

No single color can be muddy.  Mud happens in relationship to surrounding colors.  If a vocalist sings a flat note or a guitar string is out of tune, the off note by itself would not be offensive.  The same is true for color. It requires a sour relationship to its neighbors to become muddy.  This series explores four ways to prevent color from becoming muddy.

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Series Twenty-five: Working with Halftones

Under a direct light source, between center light and shadow exists halftones.  It is within these halftone areas that we find  local color–hue,  intensity, value and temperature at their truest registration.  Photos will not show nuances within these that the human eye can detect.  This   series of lessons explore how to read and interpret these nuances.

 Lessons 1 & 3 are studies, each showing how to use a principle to resolve an issue.  Lessons 2 & 4 each take the previous study to a conclusion, showing how to use those same principles to bring convert the study into a painting.

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Series Twenty-four: Managing Edges

Edges are boundaries that create shapes. How we manage them determines the expression we give of our shapes. That happens when we consciously make choices about how distinct or indistinct we render these shape boundaries. Shapes can appear separate from their surrounding shapes or merged with them. This series of lessons explores ways master artists typically manage these boundaries by allowing them to be sharp, soft, ragged, broken or lost.

 Lessons 1 & 3 are studies, each showing how to use a principle to resolve an issue.  Lessons 2 & 4 each take the previous study to a conclusion, showing how to use those same principles to bring convert the study into a painting.

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Series Twenty-three: Abstract to Realism

Abstract painting might be the most curious genre of painting there is.  People who don't like or understand abstraction often will deem it meaningless, yet almost the entire 20th Century was dominated by abstraction in visual arts.  Even today, many art schools still promote teachings that splinted off from the abstract era.  However, any good realistic painting has a sound abstract design within it.

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Series Twenty-two: Low Key Light

Under an overcast sky the earth is thrown into shade.  Cloud cover diffuses the sunlight causing earth’s images to be lit by ambient light rather than direct light.  With light being dispersed evenly rather than shone directly, images underneath that light reflect it more uniformly. This series explores ways to ways to translate this ambient light for creating intriguing paintings where there is no strong light available.

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Series Twenty-one: Translating Textures

Textures are clusters of small shapes covering a form or plane.  In order to translate texture, we must first define these.  To do this we set the directional patterns using gradations and value contrasts while paying attention to modulating color.

Patterns of textures are found either on planes moving in space or on forms.  If on planes, we pay attention to the gradation of texture created by distance. If on forms, we honor the value gradation from center light into shadow.  This series addresses these two major behaviors of texture.

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Series Twenty: Working Value Shapes

Values are determined by what is happening in two distinct areas of any scene or image, all that is within the reach of the light source and all that is in shadow. Within areas hit by the light source, some are in being lit directly while others are turning slightly away. Within the shadows, light sometimes reflects and sometimes is totally excluded. All these behaviors create values.

This series explores how the artist can interpret the behaviors of light and of shadow.

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Series Eighteen: Balancing Angles

Balance is equilibrium of opposing forces.  If we are physically thrown off balance, we will fall.  If our psyche is thrown off balance, we become an emotional wreck.  It is a necessary force to facilitate out ability to comprehend and discern so that we can perceive and appreciate.  This series of tutorials focuses attention on ways to balance angles so that the visual movement in the painting is neither one-sided nor stuck in one place.

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Series Sixteen: Selecting & Placing

Selecting and placing are our first acts of creating. Selecting comes first and begins when something captures our attention and calls to be made a subject of painting. Some call this inspiration. For others, it’s called noticing or paying attention. Placing comes next when we begin to make decisions about how to align images for the most pleasing balance.

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Series Fifteen: Translating Notan

Notan is a Japanese word meaning dark/light, a concept both philosophical and functional, centering on the unity of opposites. As a design principal this principle finds balance and unity between dark and light. In visual art, we can find notan in the shadow and light construct, a solid approach for forming the value design for composing paintings. This series explores ways to achieve this concept with value and hue variations.

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Series Fourteen: Orchestrating Visual Paths

A visual path is a tool for leading the way through a composition, keeping the attention within the work. Among ways we create these paths are placement or repetition of images, the colors we select, and with value contrasts or the direction of strong linear elements. Often these paths are found in the subject matter, ready for us to use or even exploit–and if not, we create them.

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Series Thirteen: Creative Focal Points

There are several ways to create focal points. Isolation, converging lines, contrasts, directional viewing, an image different from surrounding ones and placement are among the most common. But focal points are methods, not a must and when one exists in a subject, it might not be where we’d like it to be. This series explores four creative ways to change a focal point from its obvious location to another place as well as how to create a focal point where none exists.

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Series Eleven: Visual Rhythms

One of the most ignored composing principles is rhythm, even though it plays a huge role in the dynamics of any painting.  These four lessons address the four major rhythms available to the visual artist, showing in detail how each can work for the painter.

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Series Eight: Working with Values

Of all the visual elements, values are the most important. In this series, Dianne takes you through in depth explorations of how to decipher values, how to find and use value relationships, and how to use value gradations. Once you've done the exercises of each of these lessons, you should have a working knowledge of values that can deeply enhance your paintings.

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Series Two: Guiding the Eye

Value is the single most important element for composing with   clarity.  In this series, Dianne shows how to use degrees of value contrast as the agent that guides the eye throughout the painting.  In this two lesson series, she delegates the first lesson to following a general to specific process of setting the stage for a visual path.  In Lesson Two, she will show how to refine that process so that the eye is truly guided by the placement of varying degrees of contrast.

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Series One: Composing Matters

In this series, Dianne introduces you to her language and her manner of teaching.  Believing that composing is our true nature and therefore the heartbeat of painting, Dianne is passionate about artists learning to compose at the beginning of their journey.  Technique alone is empty without awareness.

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Series FFE: Fifth Friday Extras

Our Fifth Friday Extras originally began because they were published on a 5th Friday of the month.  Whereas the regular Series are lessons all related to a single concept, these are independent of a Series.  They range in length from 1 to 2 hours.  In some, Dianne takes a painting from conception to finish (well mostly) .

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Notan: How & Why

This video now available free on YouTube gives you a feeling for Dianne's method of teaching. Here she demonstrates how to do a notan and shows its value for creating a foundation for a painting. Download the free Value Scale as a supplement to this lesson.

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MAKING COMPOSING PAINTINGS COME ALIVE!