In this post, I will discuss how you can use a low key to create very dramatic paintings. This post will follow on from my previous post which was all about painting in a high key.
Low key paintings utilize colors the lower (darker) end of the value range. So your darks will be around black and your lights will be around the middle value range.
In my previous post about high key paintings, I featured some extremely colorful artworks which seemed to almost glimmer. The paintings I will feature in this post below are in stark contrast.
They are mostly dramatic and gloomy paintings.
A low key can be great for painting scenes at night, during a storm or interior scenes. The difficulty of painting in a low key is that black can tend to take over your painting if you are not careful. All your details may end up getting lost in the shadows.
Also, if there is any glare on your painting, then your darks can end up looking weak and washed out.
When painting in a low key, an effective technique can be to use small bursts of light color to act as powerful accents. This is demonstrated in the painting below by Childe Hassam. This sharp contrast is a great way to create the illusion of light with your paints.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the paintings below. My particular favorites are by Edgar Degas of the dancers. He uses dark greens to dramatic effect. Let me know your favorite painting in the comments.
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10 comments on “How to Create Dramatic Paintings in a Low Key”
I rather like Claude Monet, The Port Of Le Havre, Night Effect, 1873.
Thanks Anne, yes it is one of his darker paintings that’s for sure.
Hi! I like all but seascape is for me both dramatic and Beautiful. kindly regads. Viveca Dahlen
Thanks Viveca! Yes the seascapes are stunning.
Some of my favorite examples are Whistler’s Nocturnes. They are filled with mood!
I really like the dark forest by Ivan Shishkin and the dance on the beach by Winslow Homer
Thanks Anneke! They are beautiful paintings.
My fave is Turner’s Moonlight. The finesse and beautiful subtlety are masterful!
This article is worth sharing for, thanks a lot for these tips. Will surely put this into practice.