Painting Stories-Shatt Leshya, a Jain Philosophy (षट लेश्या)-Blog 19

In this blog I describe the 6 paintings that I have done on the Jain concept of Shatt Leshya (षट लेश्या). Earlier I have done paintings on Jain Philosophies of Parigrah (परिग्रह), and Aparigrah (अपरिग्रह).

Shatt (षट) means six. Leshya (लेश्या) means a mental propensity, the inclination or natural tendency to behave in a certain way. The concept of Shatt Leshya grades human beings in 6 types and assigns 6 colors to their souls. Color of the soul of person having the cruelest, most envious, most deceitful grade is black. This Leshya is called Krishn (कृष्ण) Leshya.

Then follow the blue color of Neel Leshya (नील), grey color of Kapot Leshya (कापोत), yellow color of Peet Leshya (पीत), pink color of Padm leshya (पद्म), and lastly the white color of Shukl Leshya (शुक्ल).

The soul of the person having the noblest Leshya is white (शुक्ल). This person is the most humble, most pious, most detached.

A very common example is used in Jain scriptures to explain the concept of six Leshyas. The example is portrayed in the six paintings below.

The person of Krishn Leshya’s has black colored soul and high degree of cruelty, evil words, evil deeds. This person has cut off a tree totally from the trunk itself for obtaining fruits, unmindful of the damage caused to whole  tree. Click here for more details.   

Krishn Leshya

A person of Neel (blue) Leshya cuts off boughs of the tree to eat fruits. There is huge wastage of fruits and damage to the tree. Click here for more details

Neel Leshya

A person of Kapot (Grey) Leshya cuts the branches of tree to eat fruits, casing some degree of damage to the tree and wastage of fruits. Click here fore more details.

Kapot Leshya

A person of Peet (yellow) Leshya breaks off twigs to get clusters of fruits to eat. Lot of fruit is still wasted in this way. Click here for more details

Peet leshya

A person of Padm (pink) Leshya plucks only the fruits that are required for eating. The tree still suffers some damage, though to a very less degree. Click here for more details

Padm leshya

A person of Shukl (white) Leshya does not take anything from the tree directly. Only the fallen ripe fruits are picked up for eating. There is no damage to the tree and no wastage of fruits. This person is so noble that even the plant life it not hurt by him. Click here for more details

Shukl Leshya

These 6 paintings have been done in square format on 11″x11″ Watercolor Arches Watercolor paper. The framing is rectangular vertical in 19″x14″ size. Solid white painted wooden frame, double mount board, and Acrylic unbreakable transparent sheet front have been used for exquisite looks. Label behind the frame describes the concept of each painting and has frame cleaning instructions. Certificate of authenticity accompanies each painting. The 6 paintings form a set.

Readers may send their questions and comments to me by clicking on Leave a comment on the top of this blog.


New to art buying? Here are some tips-Blog 18

This blog may interest you if you are new to the world of art and wish to add and artistic touch to your home or office. If you are already a collector, it is not for you. You perhaps know already.

Here are some general tips for a common person. Remember, art is a personal matter, there are no universal rules. In your situation, or in some one else’s opinion, there could be huge variations from my thoughts. Let me still tell you what I think.

1. How much art?
In a typical home, around 5 paintings (no hard and fast rule though) for every medium sized room would add sufficient colour, sophistication, and an artistic identity to your personality. So if you have a home with 3 bedrooms, one living area, and a dining area, you could aim at having around 25 pieces of art on your walls. Well, not all of it right away. You could acquire over a period of 3 years, giving yourself time to think, to get feedback from visitors, and explore. For larger rooms one could go for 7-10 or more pieces of art. In some homes, in just one living room, I have seen as many as 20 pieces of art on walls, leave aside the sculptures on floor; and several more paintings in other rooms.

This drawing room has 15 pieces of art on walls alone. You can see 4 in this view

2. What art?
Essentially one goes for paintings/wall hangings (2D art) for the walls, and sculptures (3D art) for floors/tables. Since floor space is at premium, one ends up acquiring more paintings than sculptures in a home or office. Some sculptures do go beautifully on walls (even the exposed walls) or in verandahs, or in home gardens as well. Do take opinion of others but finally buy a painting or sculpture that brings you happy, mood uplifting feeling; adding colour, visual harmony and becoming part of your overall decor. You should feel like seeing it again and again. And mind you, art would reflect your personality. So be careful.

Sculpture along a table lamp

3. Don’t buy art as investment.

You are obviously not in the business (buying and selling) of art. I would strongly advise you not to even think of appreciation of value, although it may happen in course of time. If you are investment minded, I am not the right person to advise. Go to an art consultant…at your own peril.

4. What size?
Don’t buy the same size again and again. It becomes monotonous and does not lend scope for creative composition on walls. Go for some small, some medium and some big pieces to make interesting compositions in your home. Different formats in themselves-some vertical, some horizontal, and some square-would really impart artistic flavour in themselves. Select size and shape in appropriate manner so as not to make them overpowering, nor minuscule to the point of not being noticeable.
Big pieces of art reflect your bold personality, and there is nothing wrong with that. You are just being different.

Not only big is bold, it even goes well with small, and a sculpture

5. What style?

This is your personal choice but going for a mix of realistic, abstract, figurative, portraiture, etc. is worth attempting. Don’t make it monotonous. Bring some element of variation. Of course, there is nothing wrong with staying with one style if that is your strong choice and personality statement.

6. Which medium?
All mediums, be it Oil, Acrylic, Watercolour, Charcoal, or whatever, are reasonably long lasting; unless kept in direct sun and moisture. If the art is on paper, make sure it is on acid free paper such as Arches of France, Fabriano of Italy, and so on.

7. Which artist?
You are not an art collector. You are just a common person, wanting to brighten up home or the office. So, big and expensive names are not relevant to you. Big names come at big price in any case. Having said this, go for art that you like and can afford. A prolific artist who paints regularly, rather than a casual inactive artist, is a good choice. Artist having good/active website, good testimonials, good number of shows and recognitions, good past sales (may be difficult to guess), makes a good choice if you like the work.

8. What price?
Price of paintings (generally speaking) of most artists is based on its size, meaning the area. Per square foot price of around Rs. 10,000 (USD 150) and upwards for good upcoming artists is reasonable. More experienced artists would be priced something like Rs. 50,000 and upwards per square foot. Very senior, well known, and master category artists would cost several times this figure.

9. Mass produced v/s unique.
Mass produced art does not lend sophistication. Unique art does. The former is cheap in price as well as impression. Limited famous artist editions-signed by the artists such as Picasso, Souza, Raza, Hussain etc.-make good affordable choice though. Same thing holds good for limited edition sculptures. Unique are expensive. Limited editions are affordable. Mass produced (available in Home Centre, Amazon, Ikea Stores, cheap art stores, and with framers etc.) are cheap, but reflect low.

10. Peripherals.
Good elegant distortion free framing, proper hanging harness, signature of artist on front or back, certificate of authenticity signed by the artist, authentic provenance (chronological names of hands that the art has changed), all make good peripherals of an art.

11. Where to buy?
Reputed online (Saatchi, Mojarto etc.) galleries, or physical galleries, reputed art fairs, art shows of artists in reputed galleries, online sale websites of trustworthy artists, auctions of reputed online galleries (saffronart etc.) and references from friends, make good source for buying art. No-questions-asked returns policy is an added comfort.

12. Where to hang?
When you have just a few pieces of art, placing middle of the painting around the eye level makes sense. Can be little below or little above, but not too much. When you have collected many pieces of art it would be quite appropriate (no choice really) to hang with entire frame above (and some times below) the eye level. Similar sized pieces of similar appearance, hung side by side, make interesting composition. One big and 2 small by the side also look interesting. If you have bought some pieces as visual set (diptych, triptych etc.) , it would be best to place those together or in vicinity to convey a point. Here are some interesting hanging layouts.

Five pieces of art as one looks at the piano is not too many really

Two pieces instead of one below a light is a good variation

Diptych hung together

13. Where else art?
Well, one may be surprised. Art can be placed in bathrooms, in passages, in sit outs, and entrances. Be careful about the medium and placement. Avoid Oil and Watercolors in bathrooms as moisture, over a long period, would cause damage. Acrylic paintings are fine here. In open spaces, make sure there are no direct sun-rays on any medium of art except the sculptures. Actually even in closed spaces, draw curtains during those times of the day when sun -rays, coming thru windows and doors, fall on the paintings.

Art at exit leaves good memories of your home

Art in a passage brightens up otherwise boring space

I don’t mind art in a bathroom

I would end by saying, add art to your life. It brings happiness and sophistication. It is one way of making a statement about yourself. Mind you, most people can afford it, it is only a question of making up one’s mind. Go in steps but do take the first step if not taken already.

I will be happy to entertain questions and also receive comments. Please click on the tab Leave comment on the top of this blog.

And do share it among friends.

Clouds and Skies in watercolor paintings-Blog 17

This blog will be useful for artists in learning watercolor techniques. 
Connoisseurs will find it useful in developing greater sense of appreciation.

Painting clouds & skies is both fascinating and challenging in watercolors. Once put on paper, the watercolors flow and mix unpredictably, producing pleasing or ugly results. That’s the fascinating part of it. The challenge arises from the fact that timing and intensity of color application are very important in watercolor medium; and that the medium does not allow much corrections.

Keith Fenwick, in his book “Paint a landscape in minutes-WATERCOLOUR COURSE” has some important tips for painting clouds and skies:

  1. Skies and clouds can sometimes form 2/3rd of a painting, and therefore must be painted well.
  2. A golden rule is to paint simple sky if the lower part of the painting is detailed. A simple foreground needs an atmospheric sky.
                                                                                           Blue clouds with rising poppy pods. Simple sky for busy foreground                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Blue simple sky with busy foreground of Orange Butea           Monosperma (टेसू ) forest                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Atmospheric sky for  simpleforeground 
  3. The artist has the licence to paint a sky from imagination to make the painting interesting, if the real sky is boring or clouds non existent.
  4. Our challenge is to make the sky representative of the mood or the atmosphere, not the exact formation as we see in the photo or in nature. In any case, watercolor medium can not achieve exact replica.
  5. For a better control on composition, artists often prefer to paint the landscape first and then the sky-cloud into it. Using acrylic watercolors will help here as the drippings onto the lower part are wipeable.
  6. In watercolors, clouds have to be painted quickly, usually in less than 3 minutes, to avoid hard edges. Timing as well the strength of the next layer are important.
  7. In watercolors, each successive application of paint should be stiffer (less wet) than the under-painting, to avoid hard edges or what is called the cauliflower.                                                                                    
              Cauliflower formation in my painting.              See top right blue sky hard edges. Doesn't look bad though
  8. In watercolors, use big (1 1/2″) hake brush lightly and apply minimum brush strokes to     achieve freshness in the sky. Otherwise the sky will look muddy.
  9. There are several techniques that can be used to paint sky-successful painters                       experiment.
  10. All skies are painted wet into wet, except the glazing.
  11. The concept of applying glaze works well in painting clouds. Glaze is thin paint, with lot of water. A  broad brush, such as 1 1/2″  hake is used for applying glaze. Glaze harmonises as well sparkles the painting. It can be applied to a part of the painting or the whole. Glaze is applied after the under paint has dried completely.
  12. The secret when painting skies is to wet your paper initially with clean water or a weak   Raw Sienna.
  13. White cloud shapes can be achieved by blotting out the wet color with soft tissue.
  14. The addition of a small splash of another color can provide a more pleasing sky structure.
           Adding colors in the sky makes them pleasing.       

  15. Tilting the board in different directions mixes the colors in very interesting manner and can add lot of charm to the painting. Practice helps to lead the wet paint in desired direction. Shafts of rain can thus be obtained by tilting the board nearly vertical. Once doing this, I blundered but the painting came out pretty well with a heavy thick shaft of rain.
    Threatening dark clouds and lightning of monsoon sky. A heavy shaft of rain was formed by mistake but it looked interesting

  16. For painting clouds and skies, Keith Fenwick color recommendations are Payne’s Grey, French Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue, Alizarin crimson, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber. Additionally, I use Chrome Yellow,  Cobalt Blue, Chinese White, and Coastal Fog.
  17. Below are some more images of my paintings with clouds and skies with brief description.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
        Dark night clouds and full moon in Sharad Ritu

Dark night sky with rays of threads obtained by masking fluid technique
                Blue day sky  and Black night sky 
Threatening black clouds with silver linings of monsoon
Colorful sky with domes of churches
Night clouds and full moon of Sharad Ritu
Night clouds and full moon of Sharad Ritu
Fruity imaginary clouds of Indian Summer
Blue sky with flying swans in Sharad Ritu
Rising poppy pods and white houses in blue sky
Raining Datura flowers and colorful monsoon clouds

With this, the blog on Clouds and Skies in watercolor paintings ends. Please do write back by clicking on the top tab Leave a comment. I will also be happy to answer any questions that the readers may have.

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The complementary color scheme-part 2/2 (techniques of implementing)-Blog 16

This blog titled “The complementary color scheme-part 2/2 (techniques of implementing)-Blog 16” is in continuation of my earlier blog titled “The complementary color scheme-part 1/2 (examples in nature, and in art)-Blog 15”. Here we shall discuss the techniques that the artists use for implementing the complementary color scheme in their paintings.

Excerpts from blog 15

In blog 15 we observed some examples of the scheme in nature. We also discussed some examples of paintings in which the famous artists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet adopted the complementary color scheme with striking effect.

The color wheel that we used for discussion has 3 primaries R, Y, and B. When mixed with each other, these lead to 3 secondaries O, G, and V. When these 6 are mixed, we get 6 tertiaries YG, BG, BV, RV, RO, and OY. The colors that are directly opposite on the color wheel are called the complementary colors. Thus Green is complementary of Red, Blue-Violet is complementary of Orange-Yellow and so on.

Why complementary colors appeal to the eye is because the presence of two opposite colors provides rest to the eye. M. E. Chevreul’s observed that if one were to keep staring at a colored circle on a white background for some time and then close the eye, the opposite color appears in the brain. According to John Sloan, the complementary colors should be used together for best results in a painting. With this in mind the artists can use complements by (a) mixing them (b) underpainting one below the other (c) over painting/glazing one over the other. True complementary colors neutralise accurately and make beautiful colors when mixed together in proper proportions. They complement each other when used together well.

Now we come to the current blog

The concept of Full intensity, Neutral, and Semi-Neutral colors:

For learning the techniques of implementing complementary color scheme in our painting, we first need to understand these 3 definitions of colors.

Full intensity colors are the colors in pure state on the outer circle of the color wheel. All the 12 colors that we saw on our color wheel are the full intensity colors. Tubes of these colors may be bought straight from the market. Sometimes the nomenclatures may not be generic like the ones we wrote on our color wheel, as different manufacturers may have their own names for these.

Artists have found that when these full intensity complementaries are used over large areas in a painting, the result is  overwhelming and rather too loud. Therefore full intensity complementaries are usually incorporated in a painting only over small areas. Such discriminate use is very appealing to the eyes as it accentuates the effect of complementariness.

Full intensity Blue and full intensity Orange overwhelm the eyes, even in nature

Neutral colors are the colors obtained by mixing two complementaries (pure colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel) in such proportion that neither of the pure colors can be seen in the mixture. What is obtained is what appears in the centre of the color wheel. Any two complementaries when fully neutralised look nearly similar since they reach the same centre of the wheel. The appearance of a neutral color is dull and muddy. So, the artists do not mix the two complementary colors to the extent of full neutralisation.

Semi-neutral colors are colors that are obtained by partially reducing the intensity of pure colors. This is achieved by one of the four methods of mixing. These four methods of mixing, described below, are also called 4 methods of Semi-neutralising.

1. Mixing little bit of one pure color into its complementary color. Thus, a bit of blue in orange (orange semi-neutralised) or bit of orange in blue (blue semi-neutralised) would be termed semi-neutralising the colors. How much bit of one pure into the opposite pure is a matter of artist’s choice and it could/should be different in different areas of a painting. Use of complementary colors semi-neutralised in this manner makes painting sing.

My painting Vasant Ritu uses yellow and violet complementaries. Violet has been semi-neutralised by adding yello at some places and black at another

2. Mixing little bit of white in a pure color reduces intensity of the pure color leading to its                 semi-neutralisation. Both the complementaries can thus be semi-neutralised by adding a               bit of white in each. This technique imparts it a pastel appearance. This pastel effect                       makes painting serene and peaceful.

3. Mixing black to a pure color makes it darker. This is another interesting method of                          semi-neutralising a pure color. What kind of black is important to know. In Acrylic and in              Oil mediums, one may use the black that comes straight from the tube. It is not so in the                case of watercolors. The black that comes straight from the tube in watercolors is highly                opaque and it imparts starkness to the color or a hole in the painting. Therefore, in                          watercolors one obtains black by mixing colors. Bamboo Green+Alizarin                                            Crimson+French Ultramarine gives black. Burnt Sienna+Prussian Blue or                                          French Ultramarine+ Carmine or Brown madder+French Ultramarine are some                              more combinations. Exceptionally one may use the black from the tube to achieve some                  special effect.

The diagram above explains the 3 ways of achieving semi-neutrals. Semi-neutralising by mixing 2 pure colors (cerulean blue and cadmium red), mixing white to a pure color (white to cadmium red or white to cerulean blue), mixing black to a pure color (black to cadmium red or black to cerulean blue )

Black has been used by Jan Vermeer to semi neutralise orange as well as blue. White too has been used to semi-neutralise blue


4. Mixing grey (white and black together) to a pure color imparts dullness to the painting                   and therefore this method of semi-neutralising is seldom used.

In the diagram below one can see the relationship between pure, semi-neutral and neutral colors. When pure orange is added in small quantity to its complementary blue, we get prussian blue that lies inside the color wheel on the line connecting orange and blue. It lies closer to blue. On the other hand when we add pure blue in small quantity to its complementary orange, we get light red, that lies closer to orange.  When the quantity of blue is increased we get burnt umber, that shifts farther away from orange. Since these 3 semi-neutrals are very popular with artists, these can also be bought straight from the market in tubes, instead of mixing.

Diagram explaining the relationship between complementaries, the semi-neutrals, and the neutral

Applying colors to create semi-neutrals

Above, we discussed the definition and characteristics of full intensity, semi-neutral, and neutral complementary colors. We said neutrals of complementaries are too dull (least used), full intensity complementaries are too vibrant (used in small amounts), semi-neutrals are very pleasing (most used). We also discussed 4 types of mixes for getting semi-neutrals. Now we come to 4 ways of applying colors on paper or canvas to create the semi-neutrals. These are:

a. In the standard mixing method the artist uses the conventional watercolor approach and mixes the two complementaries either on the palette or on the painting surface. The proportions of the two complementaries change in favour of one or the other for achieving different visual effects/tones. Use of white or black or both to reduce or enhance intensity of the two complementaries or already semi-neutralised colors is similarly handled on palette or on painting surface.

b. The alla prima method is used in Acrylic or Oil paintings. Instead of blending the colors on surface or on palette, the artist applies the complementary colors in different proportions directly on the painting surface adjacent to or over each other. Similarly the white and the black may be used adjacent to the full intensity or semi-neutralised colors to reduce or enhance the intensity.

c. The pointillist approach of applying colors is to put small strokes of complementary colors side by side. The eye when it sees the painting from a distance mixes the colors in the brain and visualises the semi-neutralised shades, the colors of which depend upon the proportions of the two complementaries. White and black strokes can also be used for reducing or enhancing the intensity respectively.

d. In the glazing method, used in watercolors, the artist applies a layer of color over the dried surface painted in its complementary color. Thus yellow may be painted over violet or violet may be painted over yellow. The amount of color in the wash can be changed to achieve varying shades of semi-neutrals.

The concept of dominant color and subordinate color

Use of equal amounts of the two complementaries (either full intensity or semi-neutral) will not allow the eye to rest anywhere as the two would compete with each other for attention. So the trick is to use one complementary as dominant color and the other as subordinate. So if Blue is dominant the Orange should be subordinate. Further, while the full intensity Blue would be used only in small amounts, the semi-neutralised Blue (with Orange or White or Black) would be used over larger areas. Full intensity Orange would be even less and so would be semi-neutralised Orange (with Blue or White or Black)

Van Gogh used dominant Blue and subordinate Orange in this self portrait. One can see full intensity Blue and Full intensity Orange only in small areas, the larger areas are semi-neutralised by complementary colors or by use of black to darken some Blues and Oranges.

This painting of mine titled Vasant Ritu has dominant Orange and subordinate Blue

This painting of Renoir has dominant Orange and subordinate Blue, the latter has been semi-neutralised more than the former

Here are some concluding tips

  • To dull down a color without adding black or grey, add a tiny drop of its complement.
  • To make a color stand out, place a tiny accent of its complement next to it.
  • Opposing colors work best when they are of similar intensity.
  • Make one of your Complementary colors the dominant one in your palette.
  • Use various intensities of that dominant color, by adding different proportions of its complement. Then vary the values by adding white to lighten, black to darken or grey to soften.
  • For contrasting accents choose the non-dominant color. Make sure it has a little of the dominant hue mixed in to tone it down a touch. Otherwise these accents will jump out to the eye a bit too much.

Dear reader, with this I end the concluding blog (part 2/2) on complementary color scheme.

I welcome you to give your valuable inputs and comments by clicking “Leave a comment” on top of the post. Please do pass on this blog to your artist and art loving friends.

Acknowledgements: Stephen Quiller’s book Color Choices, Wikipedia for Complementary colors, Web for paintings of Van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer, and Renoir

The complementary color scheme-part 1/2 (examples in nature, and in art)-Blog 15

Artists use several color schemes based on color wheel and color theory. This blog will introduce an important color scheme called the complementary color scheme. We will see some examples where this scheme has been adopted by nature. From the eye of an artist, we will see some paintings of world famous painters who have used this scheme very well in some of their paintings.

In another blog (part 2/2) we will discuss the methodology (the technique) used by artists in implementing the complementary scheme.

We take help of the color wheel to understand what are complementary colors. The conventional RYB (red-yellow-blue) color wheel looks like this.

The primary colors (shown at the 3 corners of triangle in the wheel) are yellow, blue, and red.

The Secondary colors are obtained by mixing two primaries. We get green by mixing yellow and blue. Violet is obtained by mixing blue and red. Orange is obtained by mixing red and yellow. Thus we get 3 secondaries.

The Tertiary colors are obtained by mixing a primary and one of the two adjacent secondaries. Yellow and green give yellow-green, blue and green give blue-green. Similarly we get blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange. There are 6 tertiaries.

These 12 colors ( 3 primaries, 3 secondaries, and 6 tertiaries) are the foundation of all the color schemes that artists use in their paintings. Any two (out of these 12) directly opposite colors on this color wheel are called complementary colors. Yellow is complementary of violet, blue-green is complementary of red-orange and so on.

In Stephen Quiller’s (the famous American colorist and writer of book color choices) words, the complementary colors neutralise each other to an accurate neutral, make beautiful neutral colors when mixed together, and complement each other when used together well in a color scheme. John Sloan, the great American Painter, advises that painters should think of complementary colors as opposite ends of one color and should be envisioned together for best results in a painting. With this in mind the artist use them not only while mixing but also while under painting or over painting or glazing color over color.

Color theories all began with M.E. Chevreul (1786-1889), a French scientist who was interested in art. His book The principles of harmony and contrast of colors became a bible for impressionists, post impressionists, and also many famous American painters including Winslow Homer (1836-1910). He discovered that the eye actually seeks a balance by providing the complementary color.

Use of pure complementary colors can be overwhelming to the eye. It may create too much vibration. Artists therefore semi-neutralize the complementaries to make paintings really sing. There are different ways of neutralising pure colors and we will discuss this aspect in another blog (part 2/2).

Use of Complementary colors next to each other gives very striking appearance and nature uses this principle in several cases.

Here are some examples in nature

Yellow-Violet Viola Flowers

Red-violet and yellow-green Coleus plant

Red Tulips and Green stems

                                                           Blue and Orange in this bird

Blue and Orange sky imparting a striking appearance


Some examples in Art

In 1872, Claude Monet painted Impression, Sunrise, a tiny but vivid orange sun and some orange light reflected on the clouds and water in the centre of a hazy blue landscape. This painting, with its striking use of the complementary colors orange and blue, gave its name to the impressionist movement. Monet was familiar with the science of complementary colors, and used them with enthusiasm. He wrote in 1888, “color makes its impact from contrasts rather than from its inherent qualities….the primary colors seem more brilliant when they are in contrast with their complementary colors.”

                                               Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet (1872)

Orange and blue became an important combination for all the impressionist painters. They all had studied the recent books on color theory, and they knew that orange placed next to blue made both colors much brighter. Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painted boats with stripes of chrome orange paint straight from the tube.

                                        Oarsmen at Chatou by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1879)

Renoir knew that orange and blue brightened each other when put side by side.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was especially known for using this technique; he created his own oranges with mixtures of yellow, ochre and red, and placed them next to slashes of sienna red and bottle green, and below a sky of turbulent blue and violet. He also put an orange moon and stars in a cobalt blue sky. He wrote to his brother Theo of “searching for oppositions of blue with orange, of red with green, of yellow with purple, searching for broken colors and neutral colors to harmonize the brutality of extremes, trying to make the colors intense, and not a harmony of greys.”

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh (1889)

 The painting features orange stars and an orange moon against sky of blue and violet

Describing his painting, The Night Café, to his brother Theo in 1888, Van Gogh wrote: “I sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow, with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens.”

The Night Café by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Van Gogh used red and green to express what he called “the terrible human passions”.

Cafe’ terrace at night by Van Gogh

The painting uses orange and blue for a striking impact on eyes

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) lived much before Chevreul (1786-1889). Obviously he had not read latter’s color theory of contrasts and harmonies, yet he adopted the blue and orange in his famous paintings.

Girl with a pearl earring by Johannes Vermeer (1665)

Use of blue and orange, both semi-neutralised with black and white (?)

The Milkmaid (1658) by Johannes Vermeer

Use of blue and orange, both semi-neutralised with black

Use of Red-violet and yellow-green in Vasant Ritu by Vijay Kiyawat

Use of Blue-orange and violet-yellow in Parigrah by Vijay Kiyawat

Some practical uses of complementary colors

Use of orange in raft and life jackets in sea that is normally blue

Dear reader, with this I end the introductory blog (part 1/2) on complementary color scheme. In blog part 2/2 I shall discuss the methodology/the technique that artists use to adopt the complementary color scheme.

I welcome you to give your valuable inputs and comments by clicking “Leave a comment” on top of the post. Please do pass on this blog to your artist and art loving friends.

Acknowledgements: Stephen Quiller’s book Color Choices, Wikipedia for Complementary colors, Web for paintings of Van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer. 

Painting Stories-5 (Varsha Ritu-2)-Blog 14

It is end of June as I write this blog. Indians in most parts of the country are enjoying the mood uplifting monsoon that has just set in. In such joyous mood I take you to my painting Varsha Ritu-2 (Rainy Season-2). The painting is based on Indian poet Kalidas’s description of the rainy season in his lyrical Sanskrit poem “Ritu-Sanhaaram“.

Hindi translation of the opening stanza of this season reads:

“देखो प्यारी! जल की फुहारों से भरे हुए बादलों के मतवाले हाथी पर चढ़ा हुआ, चमकती हुई बिजलियों की झंडियों को फहराता हुआ और बादलों की गरज के नगाड़े बजाता हुआ यह कामियों का प्यारा पावस राजाओं का सा ठाठ-बाट बनाकर आ पहुँचा है।”

And the english translation by Arthur W Ryder reads:

“The rain advances like a king

In awful majesty;

Hear, dearest, how his thunders ring
Like royal drums, and see
His lightning-banners wave; a cloud
For elephant he rides,
And finds his welcome from the crowd
Of lovers and of brides.”

In stanza 3, the Hindi version reads:

“देखो ! जिन बादलों से पपीहे पिउ-पिउ करके पानी माँग रहे हैं, ऐसे पानी के भार से नीचे झुके हुए, धुआँधार पानी बरसाने वाले और कानों को भली लगने वाली गड़गड़ाहट करते हुए बादल धीरे-धीरे घिरते चले जा रहे हैं।”

In English- ” Bowing down with the load of water, are slowly gathering the heavy downpour bringing clouds”

And this is how Kalidas’s clouds in my painting look like:

VARSHA RITU-2 (vk-161) , 2nd july-12th sept, (in ritu-sanhaar by kaalidaas) Watercolor on Waterford paper, 22"x 30", 2012

                          Varsha Ritu-2, watercolor on Waterford paper, framed 27″x 37″

Further, stanza 24 in Hindi reads:

बन में चारों ओर खिले हुए कदम्ब के फूल ऐसे लग रहे हैं मानों वर्षा के नए जल से गर्मी दूर हो जाने पर जंगल मगन हो उठा हो।……..”

In the painting once can see golf ball size Kadamb (Burflower Tree or Neolamarckia cadamba) flowers on the trees and on the green expanse.

                                             Photo of Golf ball sized Kadamba flowers


The lower left quarter of the painting portrays this Kadamba description of Kalidas.

Actually Kalidas has written 29 stanzas for the rainy season, narrating several details. I have picked only some for this painting. I hope my painting will further uplift your mood in this pleasant season.

I have painted clouds as per Kalidas’s description for other seasons as well. I shall take up those in my coming blogs.

I will be happy to respond to questions/comments on this blog. Please click on Leave a comment that appears on the top and then write your comments in the box that opens.


Painting Stories-4 (Aparigrah-2)-Blog 13

I have made a few paintings depicting some Jain philosophies such as Parigrah, Aparigrah, Parigrah-Aparigrah, Shatt Leshya, Anekant, and Ahimsa.

On the philosophy of Aparigrah I have made four paintings. In this blog I shall describe the painting titled Aparigrah-2.


Watercolor on Fabriano paper    15″x22″

APARIGRAH-2 (LESS POSSESSIONS-2) (vk-142) watercolor on Fabriano paper 15"x22", 2011


In Jain religion, mainly practised in India, Aparigrah (अपरिग्रह ) means renouncing or detaching oneself or possessing less. Painted in saffron-yellow color, this painting depicts tranquility and quest for light and salvation. Digambar Jain saints (Munis-मुनि) who are naked, have been shown in a very faint manner. In fact they can barely be seen in the painting. The third from the left is seated. The rest five are in standing posture.

The six Muni’s

APARIGRAH-2 (LESS POSSESSIONS-2) (vk-142) watercolor on Fabriano paper 15"x22", 2011


Digambar Jain Munis practise high order of Aparigrah, so much so that they relinquish even the clothes, and remain naked. The only two possessions that they have are one water-vessel (कमण्डल) and one broom of peacock feathers (मोरपिच्छि, पिच्छि). The water-vessel is meant for ablutions and the peacock feather broom for removing the insects while seating or walking so as to avoid injury to the tiniest of creatures. The feathers that are used are the ones shed naturally by male peacock after the mating season in the winter month of Kartik (कार्तिक) as per Hindu lunar calendar. The period falls around Deepawali time. The reason for using peacock feathers is that these feathers are extremely soft and gentle. The munis may keep two more articles with them. The eyeglasses if they need them for reading, and the scriptures.

In the painting each muni is shown with a water-vessel, and a peacock feather broom.

The peacock feather broom -pichchhi (पिच्छि)


APARIGRAH-2 (LESS POSSESSIONS-2) (vk-142) watercolor on Fabriano paper 15"x22", 2011


The water-vessel (कमण्डल)

APARIGRAH-2 (LESS POSSESSIONS-2) (vk-142) watercolor on Fabriano paper 15"x22", 2011

The painting has been done on 15″x22″ size Fabriano brand 300 gsm watercolor paper.

For more details such as framed size and the wall view, please click here


I will be happy to respond to questions/comments on this blog. Please click on Leave a comment that appears on the top and then write your comments in the box that opens.

Painting Stories-3 (Sharad Ritu-4)-Blog 12

                                                                         Sharad Ritu-4
                                                    Watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13″x13″
 Indian poet Kaalidaas’s literature written around 1500 years ago provides immense painting resource and treat for Indian Watercolorists. The reason is that his writings are replete with description of nature and Watercolor is an excellent medium for portraying nature for its transparency and brightness. Deriving inspiration from Kaalidaas’s lyrical poem ऋतु संहारम् (Ritu-Sanhaaram) in which he divided the year in 6 seasons unlike 4 in most cultures, I have done several Watercolor Paintings on seasons Under Ritu-Sanhaar series.
SHARAD RITU-4 (vk-136), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13"x13", 2011 - Version 2
 My painting Sharad Ritu-4 (शरद ऋतु-४ ) based on ऋतु संहारम् portrays a few descriptions as narrated in various Shlokas (verse lines). In English this season is called the autumn season. Immediately following the long 10 week rainy season (वर्षा ऋतु), Sharad Ritu is a short 6 week season during mid September-end October period.

The story behind this painting is Kaalidaas’s romantic description of nature and the mood of people during this season. I enjoyed reading the Hindi version of this lyrical poem ऋतु संहारम्  (Ritu-Sanhaaram) which means the description of seasons. I had to do a bit of research to understand the vegetation mentioned in the poem. For example  Kaalidaas  describes Kaans in Shlok-1 saying फूले हुए काँस के कपड़े पहने,……..शरद ऋतु, नई ब्याही हुई रूपवती बहू के समान अब आ पहुँची है। (Wearing swollen Kaans clothes like a beautiful newlywed bride, the autumn season has now arrived).

kans-grassI did not know what Kaans (in Shlok 1,2, and 28) meant and what it looked like. On searching thru the net I learnt that Kaans is a tall grass, also called Kash Phul or Kaans Flower in Bangladesh. In english it is called Thatching Grass. I also found out that it is the Icon of Autumn in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. On Youtube there is a nice video on kash Phul with some soothing music. Image below shows Kaans. I have also seen it in fields in Gurgaon, in North India.

SHARAD RITU-4 (vk-136), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13"x13", 2011 - Version 2

In Shlok-2 Kaalidaas writes काँस की झाड़ियों ने धरती को, चन्द्रमा ने रातों को, हँसों ने नदियों के जल को…….. उजला बना डाला है। (The earth due to Kaans bushes, the night due to the moon, and the water due to the swans in it have all turned bright white in this season). In my painting, arrows 1 in the picture on the left show the Kaans in the fields, arrows 2 the bright washed moon in the night sky, and arrows 3 the swans in the river waters; all imparting white glow to the atmosphere.

I used Permanent Masking Medium of Winsor and Newton mixing Quinacridone Gold in it and then applying long brush strokes with a rigger brush to paint the  Kaans grass in the field. After these strokes dried up, I painted the surroundings in the field without disturbing the Kaans grass strokes.
SHARAD RITU-4 (vk-136), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13"x13", 2011 - Version 2In Shlok-5, Kaalidaas writes घुटे हुए आँजन की पिंडी जैसा नीला सुन्दर आकाश, दुपहरिया के फूलों से लाल बनी हुई
धरती……… इस संसार में किस युवक का मन डाँवाडोल नहीं कर देते। (which young man’s mind can not be lured in this season by the beautiful blue sky like the well masticated kohl and the portulaca covered red grounds!). Why Kaalidaas has compared deep blue sky of this season with kohl (आँजन) was not clear to me, so I just painted the day sky blue (and not black) as shown by arrow 1 in image on the right.  I was fairly sure दुपहरिया meant Portulaca flower that blooms in the afternoon. The web search confirmed this. Arrows 2 show these flowers in the painting. These were painted in Guache for opacity, as watercolor would not have stood out so well.
SHARAD RITU-4 (vk-136), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13"x13", 2011 - Version 2
Shlok-7 reads बादल हटे हुए चन्द्रमा के मुँह वाली आजकल की रात……चांदनी की उजली साड़ी पहने हुए अलबेली छोकरी के सामान दिन-दिन बढ़ती जा रही है।  (in this season the night having face like the moon, clear of clouds, is lengthening day by day like the heart-stealing lass wearing saree of white moonlight). I portrayed this by showing full moon without clouds and white glow around it on the left as though in early night (see arrow in image on the left). I showed the dark night on the right top corner.
SHARAD RITU-4 (vk-136), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 13"x13", 2011 - Version 2
In Shlok-11 of Sharad Ritu description, Kaalidaas writes
जिन तालों के तीर पर मस्त हंसों के जोड़े घूम रहे हैं……..
वे ताल अचानक ह्रदय को मस्त बनाये डाल रहे हैं। (the ponds that have rollicking swan pairs on its banks are suddenly rendering the heart rollicking)
The two arrows in the image on the right show the swan pairs in the waters.
 Focusing on the composition, I took help of the diagonal river bank from right bottom, moving towards middle left to lead viewer’s eyes to the Kaans field and then to the moonlight on top right. The darks on the two corners (top right-bottom left) as well as the blues in the bottom right and top left helped in balancing the composition.  The crescent grey in the moon was added on the advice of my learned teacher Ms. Surinder Kaur to make the moon look more interesting. The soft black of the night was achieved by mixing Bamboo Green (Holbein brand), Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue, all three transparent colors. I avoided using Ivory Black, a color that is too stark due to its absolute opaqueness.

In my opinion, the use of two horizontal lines in the painting has added some additional interest in the painting.

Personally, I find in my Sharad Ritu-4 quite a bit, though only partial, portrayal of Kaalidaas’s description of the autumn season.  It is a soothing, light, cheerful, and mood uplifting painting. Its small square format makes it versatile for placement in a happy ambience.

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Painting Stories-2 (The Split Complementary color scheme)-Blog 11

In this blog I describe the color scheme of another favorite painting of mine shown below.  It is titled MEDITATION-26. It is made on Fabriano cold pressed 300 gsm paper in 36″x 26″ size.  My Meditation series portrays agitation of mind at one end (before) and tranquility at another (after). The paintings having elements such as buds, flowers, leaves, twigs, fruits, trunks, create this transition in interesting and abstract manner. The transition is from bottom to top or sideways. In this painting meditation is depicted thru a Rose plant and the transition is from bottom to top.

How do artists choose color schemes? Or……how they should? Many artists have the natural talent to select harmonious colors to convey the mood they want but others require systematic study and practice to acquire that skill.  These are the topics that internationally known color master Stephen Quiller – working primarily in water media – discusses in his famous book “Color Choices-making color sense out of color theory“. His research and development of a color wheel for painters – called the “Quiller Wheel” – is now used by thousands of painters throughout the world.MEDITATION-26 (vk-175), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 36"x26", 2013

In his book Stephen Quiller structures the color schemes as follows:

  1. Monochromatic
  2. Complementary
  3. Analogous
  4. Split Complementary
  5. Triadic

I read the book to learn his color theory. I also made some paintings using his color theory. I was happy with the outcome of some paintings. In this blog I shall describe one of those paintings titled MEDITATION-26, shown above. In this painting I used the Split Complementary color scheme.  To reconfirm whether I had used the scheme correctly, I sent the image of the finished painting to Stephen Quiller for his comments. I was pleasantly surprised to receive his confirmation Vijay, It certainly looks like a split complementary. The way I use it is yellow-green (to the yellow side) green (viridian), and a touch of blue-green although you could just use the first two if necessary. and the split is the viridian with its complement quinacridone rose. Good luck and best, Steve”

The basic color wheel shown below has 12 major colors on the circle. These are pure colors, not muted by their opposites.  The 3 primary colors are yellow, blue, and red. These 3 are the purest and the brightest colors and can not be obtained by any mixing. The 3 secondary colors are obtained by mixing two primaries in equal proportion. These are green, violet, and orange. And the 6 tertiary colors are obtained by equal mixing of one primary and one secondary. These are yellow green, blue green, blue violet, red violet, red orange, and yellow orange.

basic color wheel
The basic color wheel showing 3 primaries, 3 secondaries, and 6 tertiaries

A Split Complementary color scheme uses 3 analogous colors and a 4th color that is the complementary of the mid-analogous color. In the above color wheel of 12 major colors, any 3 adjacent colors are termed analogous colors. Complementary color that is used is the one that is right opposite the middle analogous color. Which 3 analogous colors to use is the decision that the artist has to take depending upon what mood is to be depicted.

For example one may use red violet, violet, and blue violet as the 3 analogous colors. The 4th color would be the complementary of violet (mid analogous) i.e. yellow. These 4 would make a Split Complementary color scheme. Stephen Quiller advises using muted colors rather than the pure colors. Thus each analogous color would be muted (or semi neutralized) with its own complementary or just the complementary of the mid analogous color, which is yellow in this case. Further, the colors may be darkened by adding black (derived black rather than solid black in the case of watercolors) or lightened either by thinning or adding white. Such semi neutralized usage of colors rather than the pure colors would make a very pleasing composition. Use of complementary would bring accent to the painting, unlike in the case of Analogous color Scheme where no complementary is used. Actually, Split Complementary scheme is a pleasing variation of Analogous color scheme.

In my painting MEDITATION-26, I used green (viridian) as the mid analogous color. The adjacent colors used are yellow green and blue green. These were obtained by mixing yellow to green and blue to green respectively. The image below shows the areas of the painting where the 3 analogous colors ( 2 of them muted) have been used. Complementary of the mid green (viridian) is the permanent rose color that was used to provide the accent to the painting. Without it the painting would have fallen in the category of Analogous color scheme. Split Complementary scheme is a pleasing discord of the Analogous Color scheme. I used the complementary permanent rose in pure state and in small area, just sufficient to provide the accent rather than taking attention away from the green theme.

MEDITATION-26 (vk-175), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 36"x26", 2013
use of 3 analogous greens, and the complementary (permanent rose) of mid green

In the picture below of MEDITATION-26, are shown the areas where the semi neutrals of the 3 greens have been used. I used only the permanent rose to semi neutralize the greens. The other option was to use respective complementaries of the 3 greens. I also used darkened permanent rose in middle part of the painting to provide some focus by imparting contrast.

MEDITATION-26 (vk-175), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 36"x26", 2013
using semi neutrals of 3 adjacent greens, and darkened permanent rose in my Split Complementary scheme

The white filaments of the withered flowers were obtained by leaving the paper white by masking. I applied Daler Rowney’s masking fluid with thin low cost brush and after it had dried I painted the area with darkened permanent rose and other colors. Once the paint completely dried, the masking was removed by rubbing with eraser, and the whites of the paper emerged.

MEDITATION-26 (vk-175), watercolor on Fabriano paper, 36"x26", 2013
masking fluid was used to leave white paper to show white filaments of withered flowers


About Stephen quiller

Stephen Quiller of Colorado, United States is most known for his use of color, color theory, and his approach to water media painting. He has written 6 books and produced numerous DVD’s pertaining to these subjects, and has a number of top-quality art materials that he endorses. Artists worldwide use Stephen’s products and books, and his work is now collected internationally. He is winner of more than a dozen awards. He teaches and conducts several workshops.

Your comments:

I will be happy to receive you comments and respond. Please go to the top and use the tab “leave comments” to open a new window for writing comments.






Painting Stories-1 (Vasant Ritu-2)-Blog 10

                                              Vasant Ritu-2

                       Watercolor on Waterford paper, 22″x30″

VASANT RITU-2 (vk-118), 5th mar to 3 rd may (in ritu-sanhaar by kaalidaas) Watercolor on Waterford paper, 22"x30", 2011

My painting Vasant Ritu-2 (वसंत ऋतु – २) is my all time favorite for more than one reason. Its theme, its composition, its execution, the feelings it evokes, and the enigma the lady radiates, all fascinate me a lot.

The painting is based on narrations in Shlok nos. 5, 6, and 16 in the description of Vasant Ritu (Spring Season-early March to early May) in ऋतु संहारम्  (Ritu-Sanhaaram), the lyrical poem written some 1500 years ago by Kaalidaas in Sanskrit language. The relevant narrations of the Shlokas are:

Shlok 5: Women wearing sarees dyed with red flowers of कोसम (Schleichera Oleosa) tree. Actually the spring leaves-not the flowers-are red.

Shlok 6: The decorative कनेर (Nerium Oleander) flowers worn on the ears and अशोक (Saraca Indica) flowers in the black hair plaits of women look adorable.

Shlok 16: After intoxicating itself with the nectar of mango flowers, the male Asian Koel bird is kissing its sweetheart lustily.

In my series Ritu-Sanhaar, besides the narrations of Kaalidaas, I also portray my observations of nature including flowers, trees, birds, festivals and cultural activities in that season. Thus, the other flowers in the painting (my observations in spring season) are चंपा  (Frangipani), अमलतास (Indian Laburnum), and गुलमोहर (Delonix Regia).

Another observation of mine portrayed in this painting is the festival of  भक्ति उत्सव (Bhakti Utsav -the festival of spiritual music) that is held in the spring season in a park in Delhi. White threads tied to tree trunks and lit up from the bottom-in the backdrop of singers-render the spiritual ambience to the musical night.

Depiction of these threads was achieved by drawing masking fluid lines on the paper using oiler-boiler plastic bottle fitted with a syringe bought from Cheap Joe’s online store in the US. After the fluid had dried, I applied the paint to depict the night in dark color. The dried fluid lines were removed by rubbing with kneaded eraser after the paint had dried up fully. The white unpainted lines emerged beautifully, out of the black backgound.

Oiler Boiler bottles for applying masking fluid


Lost and found edges create intresting titillation for the viewer. Thus, not joining the elements and yet giving an indication of joining was adopted in this painting. Notice the break in the twig on which the pair of birds is perched. A continuous line would have been less interesting.

The black of the hair was obtained by mixing Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. Ivory black was not used as that would have imparted opacity to the black.  It would have stared at the viewer. Darker hair was obtained by scorings done on paper using a toothpick while the paint was still wet, allowing the wet paint to sink in the grooves and darkening it from the rest of the area. The grey highlight was obtained by subtly removing some black color while still damp, with a tissue.

In terms of composition, I like the balance created by just the two birds on the right half of the painting even though most of this half is unpainted. That’s where my mentor and artist friend Manish Pushkale said “not painting is also painting”. The black of the male Asian Koel balances the black of the hair on the left. The patch of green around the birds pretty well balances the green foliage on the left.

Personally, I find in my all time favorite Vasant Ritu-2 very enigmatic, vibrant, cheerful, and mood uplifting painting.

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                   This painting is in collection of Mrs. and Mr. Samat of Mumbai