Creating drama in your paintings

Creating drama in your paintings isn't just about dark colors and intense scenes; it's about creating a captivating visual narrative that first draws you in. It must move an emotion in you first, the artist, and then your viewers. 

No matter what subject you are painting, infusing your painting with drama can elevate your work to a different level. Drama is about emotions, and our goal is to strike a feeling or emotion in our viewer, take them somewhere, stir up memories or a place in time.  

Creating drama in your paintings takes practice, but most importantly, comes from the heart. Paint what you love and the drama will come.

Watch this video of a painting created with drama from one of my favorite painting locations. Mother nature handed me this drama one morning on a silver platter at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. This is why it's important to get out, study and see what's out there. 

Learn how to mix beautiful earth colors for painting landscapes.

Light And Shadow Are Powerful Tools In Creating Drama in Your Paintings

Light and shadow are powerful tools in creating drama. The contrast between light and dark areas can add depth and intensity to your paintings. Here’s how to use them effectively: First off, practice is the key! 

Strong Contrast: Use a stark contrast between light and dark areas to create a focal point as well as complementary colors to create vibration. 
Dramatic Lighting: Experiment with different lighting angles. But staying true to your scene is the best pathway. After gaining experience, one can add artistic license cautiously.  Backlighting can cast long shadows and create a moody atmosphere.
Subtle Gradients: Gradual transitions from light to dark can also create a dramatic effect. Learning to control your values is highly important. 
Color Contrast: Complementary colors placed next to each other create a dynamic and dramatic effect. Think of the bold contrast between red and green or blue and orange: this will help with adding drama to your paintings.
High Saturation: Use highly saturated colors to draw attention and evoke strong emotions.
Focal Points: Create a strong focal point to draw the viewer’s eye. This can be achieved through contrast, color, or detail.

Using Atmospheric Effects To Create Drama In Your Paintings


Creating an Atmospheric Effect can add mystery and depth to your painting.

Fog and Mist: Incorporate fog, mist, or haze to create a sense of mystery and depth. 

Rain and Storms: Weather elements like rain, storms, and large thunderhead clouds can add drama and movement to your scene. (One of my favorites!)

Lighting Effects: Play with the direction and quality of light, such as the golden hour or dramatic sunsets with light rays.

Reflections: Light reflections on water are a great way to create a specific mood, excitement and drama. 

Nocturnal Scenes: Night or nocturnal scenes can be very moody and dramatic with their deep mysterious light.

Below are some examples of using some of the effects in paintings. 


Follow This Outline To Build A Thunderhead


My Favorite Supplies and Tools

Here is a list of my favorite supplies from this lesson and where you can find them. These are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission. Thank YOU for your support!

Rembrandt Ultramarine Blue Deep, GET IT HERE.

Rembrandt Titanium White, My Favorite White. GET IT HERE.

Grumbacher Cadmium Red Light, this is the Red I use to make my "Air" Mixture. GET IT HERE.

Rembrandt Transparent Red Oxide. GET IT HERE.

Grumbacher Sap Green. GET IT HERE.

Draw on your canvas with Vine Charcoal and use fixatif to set your drawing.

Grumbacher Vine Charcoal. GET IT HERE.

Krylon Spray Fixatif. GET IT HERE.

Some Great Creative Resources for You!

A Handy Tip!

Remember to clean your painting before you oil out a dry painting or varnish a dry painting. Here's a video that says it all!! 


Linda Glover Gooch
Linda Glover Gooch

I hope you enjoyed this post. Besides being a Professional Painter, my Creative Journey has taken on a life of teaching, inspiring and helping others find their voice, grow and become skillful with their craft. Watching others gain the knowledge through practice and detailed instruction is a great reward. For the Collectors: My goal is to capture their vision, their imagination and take them to a place, a moment in time that touches their heart and soul.

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