Technique Tuesday: Rhythm

What is it?

Today’s Technique Tuesday post is taking a look at one of the Elements and Principles of Design, rhythm. This can be a tricky concept to wrap one’s mind around when talking about visual arts, but it is very applicable! In reference to audible sound and physical movement, rhythm involves a pattern of sounds and silences, movements and pauses, alternating and repeating, sometimes frenetic and sometimes very calm and slow.
The Elements and Principles of Design (line, form, color, pattern, rhythm, unity, etc.) are the building blocks of art, and when a piece of artwork is analyzed, these are the tools with which we can describe in words what makes an image successful, impactful, and visually pleasing. With every successful image, the eye is led. We’ll do a post soon explaining just what that means and how important it is in visual arts, but essentially it means that artists set up every element on their surface in such a way as to draw a viewer in and lead their gaze around on a certain path.
Rhythm, in reference to visual artwork, describes the way that the elements (line, color, value, composition) flow into one another. There is a movement to the way we experience the image. Thinking of this concept in musical terms is a fascinating and effective way to grasp the ideas more fully. Imagine that as you look at a painting, the movement of your eye results in audible sounds. Would the sequence of sounds be “legato”, a musical term referring to notes that slowly and easily flow into one another, or more “staccato”, which refers to abrupt changes and vivid contrast? “Hearing” the “music” of a painting helps the viewer appreciate more deeply the thoughtful way in which the artist arranged the elements of line, value, etc.

Examples from art history:

Take a look at these works painting by iconic artists throughout history, and try to imagine the sounds and rhythm created by the movement of your eye:

(top row, from left) Rene Magritte, “Golconda”; Henri Matisse, “The Dance”; Wifredo Lam, “The Jungle”; (bottom row, from left) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”; Vincent Van Gogh, “Church at Auvers”; Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”; Edward Hopper, “People in the Sun”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Two years ago, Principle Gallery held an exhibition featuring artists Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy, and titled the show “Tempo and Pause”– this was indeed a reference to the contrast and variety of rhythm found in the works of these two painters. We’ve just opened another exhibition this year featuring these two incredible artists, and the contrast in rhythm is just as striking and fascinating! Both artists make use of this Principle of Design, with incredibly different methods and incredibly different results. If you haven’t yet, we highly recommend coming to see it in person! If you’re unable to, however, definitely make sure to check out the whole show on our website here, and email us at for a full digital PDF preview. Once again, take a look at some of the works in the show and keep rhythm in mind– the variety and intricacy is fascinating! (I’ll also throw in a comparison between Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and Valerio D’Ospina’s blurred homage to it– very different rhyhtms!)

Valerio D’Ospina, “Intersection”

Valerio D’Ospina, “Duomo di Milano”

Valerio D’Ospina, “Cab Ride in Manhattan”

(left) Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”; (right) Valerio D’Ospina, “Blurred Icons (Girl with a Pearl Earring)”

Greg Gandy, “Old Car Pileup”

Greg Gandy, “Mission Cool”

Greg Gandy, “Downtown at Sunset”

Greg Gandy, “1967 Plymouth Valiant”


Exhibition Opening & Live Painting Demo with Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy

A huge thank you to everyone who came out last night to the incredible opening reception for our current exhibition, a dynamic two-man show featuring Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy!We were also incredibly honored to host a live painting demo with Valerio this afternoon! It was so exciting to see such a unique, energetic style of painting forming a finished artwork right in front of our eyes! With such a vigorous painter, though, we had to set up carefully– and warn the guests about the “splash zone”!

Thank you to everyone who attended today, and to those who watched our live stream of the event via our YouTube channel! From the first confident, gestural strokes, it was clear this was going to be a painting full of the classic Valerio D’Ospina energy and movement!

And the finished product is now drying here at the gallery, but it is available for purchase, along with the many other excellent works from the two-person exhibition! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check it out on our website or better yet, stop by in person to take in all the dazzling detail!

We’ll be having another opening reception and live painting demonstration next month with figurative artist Casey Childs. Don’t miss another one of our exciting events! Make sure you’re on our mailing list, email us at to sign up for text alerts, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest news and announcements!

Robert Liberace: The “Living Master”

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The Studio of Robert Liberace

As an artist, Robert Liberace expresses the human body in way that would make the Old Masters proud. His interest in art history, anatomy, and technique are so obviously presented in his work. However, his artistic talent isn’t the only skill that has encouraged the title “living master.” Liberace is also a fantastic and world renowned art instructor. He captivates his students with his insightful lessons and valuable pieces of advice. He refers to individual muscles by name as he captures them on the canvas. He is absolutely adored by art students and art lovers from around the world.


Robert Liberace’s Live Painting Demo, August 2017

We were able to witness, first hand, the immense following Liberace has established for himself when he presented a Live Painting Demonstration, last Friday in the gallery. We welcomed a young woman named Shelly, who had never modeled before, to be the artists subject. Liberace set up his easel, prepared his paints, then began his creative process. He had Shelly move into a few different poses until he found the perfect one. As the night progressed Shelly’s features became more and more prominent on the canvas.


Start of Demo



After the first fifteen minutes






Shelly’s defined jawline and beautiful hair became recognizable in less than fifteen minutes. Another noteworthy feature of Shelly was her well applied makeup. She wore a combination of shimmered eye shadows and completed her look with a dark purple lipstick. Such a look was definitely something new for the artist, but it was something he didn’t shy away from. Liberace grabbed a thinner brush to express her eye makeup and the deep purple color of her lipstick. He matched the color perfectly. DSC_0146


The crowd watched as the artist developed a spectacular piece and led them through his process. Liberace engaged with his audience by describing the materials he used, how to create certain details, and how to paint the human body.

Meanwhile, other guests mingled, enjoyed the refreshments, and took in the incredible new exhibition featured in the front room of the gallery. Live painting demonstrations are such fun and exciting events, and we encourage anyone in the area to come and join us when we’re able to host them! Mark your calendars, because next month, after the opening of the two person exhibition for Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy, Valerio will be treating us to a live painting demonstration on Saturday afternoon, September 23rd, from 1-4 PM!

To check out a time-lapse video of the Robert Liberace demonstration, check out our latest upload on YouTube here!

If you can, do stop by the gallery in the next couple of weeks to see the Robert Liberace exhibition– his works are just breathtaking in person! To make sure you’re up to date on all the latest news about exhibitions and events at the gallery, like live painting demonstrations, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter by filling in the “contact” form on our website here!


It’s springtime! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming…and the Portrait Society of America is announcing its yearly award winners! We are just weeks away from the PSOA annual conference, and thrilled to share that several Principle Gallery artists have been selected as finalists or received certificates of excellence their annual International Portrait Competition!

So here’s a big congratulations to Mia Bergeron and Gavin Glakas, whose paintings (“Harborer,” and “A Look Into the Setting Sun,” respectively) were awarded Certificates of Excellence in the competition!

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(left) Mia Bergeron, “Harborer”; (right) Gavin Glakas, “A Look Into the Setting Sun”

We’d also like to extend a huge congratulations to Susan O’Neill and Casey Childs, both of whom are finalists in the competition! Below are the artworks that earned them this honor:

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(left) Casey Childs, “Phylis Vandernaald”; (right) Susan O’Neill, “Lissome”

The Portrait Society’s annual conference is in Reston, VA this year, and will take place April 14-17, so to all the attendees, Principle Gallery offers a warm welcome to our neck of the woods!

There have been several other Principle Gallery artists making a splash lately as well! Congratulations to Valerio D’Ospina on his recent feature in Design Milk (click here to check it out!), Geoffrey Johnson on making the cover of the May American Art Collector issue (see it here!), and to Jorge Alberto, who just had a painting accepted to the 2016 International Juried Show of Contemporary Trompe l’Oeil and Still Life to be held at The John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights, NJ!

We are so proud and thrilled to work with such a talented group of artists! Keep up the amazing work, everyone!

Technique Tuesdays: Positive & Negative Space

Technique Tuesday positive negative spaceWhat is it?

The concept of positive and negative space is a fairly simple one. The subject of a work of art occupies the positive space, while everything else is considered negative space. Nearly every piece of representational art contains positive and negative space. The way that artists make use of positive and negative space to enhance their artworks is less simple, but very visually interesting. Negative space can be used in a number of creative ways, from balancing a composition to focusing the viewer’s eye to  adding to the visual interest of the positive space. To start, let’s look at a fairly simple and well known illustration of the concept, called “Rubin’s vase.”

Rubin2This example illustrates the manipulation of positive and negative space, as depending on how your eye determines what the positive space actually is, two different images can appear. If the central shape is interpreted as positive space, it appears to be a vase, but if that same shape is viewed as negative space, the profiles of two faces become apparent. Some artists focus primarily on the subject when determining their overall composition for a painting, but many enjoy playing with negative space and using it to balance the work.

Examples from art history:

Chinese art has always been an excellent example of the use of negative space to create a simplified, quiet, and somewhat “zen” atmosphere in a work. Especially with traditional calligraphic painting, the delicate use of black ink meant that utilizing the negative space well could be extra eye-catching and effective. As art has progressed, many well known artists have incorporated a deliberate use of negative space to add interest to a composition and to enhance the mood of a work. Check out how the negative space balances and affects the mood of these works:

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(left to right) Wang Hui, “Ancient Temple in the Mountains” 17th century; Johannes Vermeer, “Young Woman with Water Pitcher” 1662 ; Francisco Goya, “Courtyard with Lunatics” 1794; Edgar Degas, “Ballet Rehearsal” 1873

Art in the twentieth century has seen a bit of a different and new trend when it comes to the use of negative space, as artists begin to play with optical illusions and the creation of images with the negative space itself. (This has become an even bigger trend within the realm of graphic design, and is a technique often utilized with logos, like the arrow formed between the “e” and “x” in the FedEx logo.) Here are some cool examples:

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(left) Coles Phillips, “A Young Man’s Fancy” 1912; (middle) M.C. Escher, “Sky and Water I” 1938; (right) Rene Magritte, “Decalomania” 1966


Examples at Principle Gallery:

Everywhere you look here at Principle Gallery, you’ll spy examples of skilled and thoughtful use of negative space. For some artists, however, it is an especially important design element. Consider the work of Laura E. Pritchett:

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(left to right) Laura E. Pritchett, “Faith”, “Projection”, “Passing Through”

Laura’s thoughtful and liberal use of negative space as part of her compositions plays a big role in the way these works possess a sense of stillness and peace, as if a moment has been captured. Imagine for a moment if Laura had continued to fill the positive space of these works with more background imagery, more colors and textures and objects. It’d really change the impact of the paintings, don’t you think? You can check out all of Laura’s gorgeous, peaceful work at Principle Gallery on our website here.

Now check out these other awesome pieces at Principle Gallery, and take a moment to consider how and why you think the artist might have played with positive and negative space the way that they did:

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(left to right) Valerio D’Ospina, “Rainy Day in NYC”; Colin Fraser, “Highwayside”; Kevin Fitzgerald, “St. Martin Snow”; Mia Bergeron, “Limitless”

For more incredible artwork from Principle Gallery, be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!

Technique Tuesdays: Tenebrism

Technique Tuesday Tenebrism

Remember the Technique Tuesday post where we took a look at chiaroscuro? Today’s post is going to take a look at a very cool technique, closely related to chiaroscuro: tenebrism.

What is it?

Tenebrism, like chiaroscuro, is all about the use of lights and darks. Where chiaroscuro is used to create a sense of depth, three-dimensionality, and realistic texture, tenebrism involves using the stark contrast of light and dark for dramatic effect in a composition. It’s sometimes called the “spotlight effect”, and almost always features a stark, black background with the foreground, or at least some parts of it, dramatically illuminated.

Examples from art history:

The quintessential master of tenebrism in art history is the Baroque era Italian painter Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s work always bore a characteristic sense of drama, partially from the emotionally charged subject matter he would choose, but mostly thanks to the intense tenebrism. The concept of dramatic illumination became a popular one during the Baroque period following the Renaissance, and is seen frequently in both Italian and Dutch works from that time. Tenebrism has an exquisite way of creating a dramatic and powerful feel in a painting, but it also has a way of making the illuminated forms and colors absolutely glow.

caravaggio collage

Works by Caravaggio: “The Conversion of Saint Paul”, “The Taking of Christ,” and “The Calling of Saint Matthew”

You can get an idea from just these three works how Caravaggio manipulated contrast and areas of light and dark to not only set the mood, but also to draw the eye of the viewer to the most important focuses of the composition. Here are a couple of examples of the way tenebrism was used by painters further north, in the Dutch “Golden Age.”

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(left) Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Night Watch”; (right) Abraham Mignon, “Still Life with Fruit”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

As art has evolved over time, popular trends have come and gone, but tenebrism is an effect that can still be seen used frequently by today’s artists, each in a way that complements his or her unique painting style. Here are a few examples of dramatic tenebrism on works here at Principle Gallery: (click the artist’s name to see more works by Jeremy Mann, Richard Murdock, and Brian Martin)

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(left) Jeremy Mann, “The Melancholy Passerine”; (middle) Richard Murdock, “Wrapped Lilacs”; (right) Brian Martin, “Departure”

And last but not least, here’s a truly gorgeous example of a still life featuring tenebrism. This work by Greg Gandy is titled “Flowers with Insects,” and is a part of the current two-person exhibition, “Tempo and Pause” featuring works by Greg Gandy and Valerio D’Ospina. (Click here to view all the works in the show on our website!) Click the image to get a closer look, and check out how beautifully the contrast between the dark background and the illuminated flowers and vase makes the colors really glow!

Flowers with Insects 36x24 HR

Greg Gandy, “Flowers with Insects”



Technique Tuesdays: Limited Palette

Technique Tuesday limited paletteWhat is it?

This week we’re taking a look at a method that some artists use to help enhance their work by creating color harmony and balance–the use of a limited palette. This is pretty much just what it sounds like. Thanks to the advances made over many centuries, artists today can go into an art supply store and choose from a vast plethora of paints in every imaginable color. This may at first seem like an advantage, but many artists in fact extol the virtues of using a very limited color palette. Working with only a few basic colors not only teaches beginning artists to explore mixing colors on their own, but also has a beautiful effect on the finished artwork. A limited palette often involves (though it does not necessarily include) the use of white and black, as well as one or two additional paint colors. All the varying values and tones resulting from these base palette colors end up having a harmonious flow to them thanks to those shared base colors. The choice to not use a large number of colors in a painting can also add to the sense of balance, increase the drama and mood, and even enhance the composition of a work by avoiding the distraction of too many colors and instead focusing on value, line, and form.

Examples from art history:

In a way, artists throughout history have necessarily worked with a limited color palette in comparison with the options available to artists today. But there were certain artists who experimented with a specific and very limited range of colors, to a lovely effect. Picasso’s “Blue Period” became an iconic part of his painting career, as he eschewed the full range of colors to focus on what he could communicate and emote through the spectrum of blues alone. Perhaps the most well-known proponent of the concept of a limited palette was notable Swedish painter Anders Zorn, whose unique palette of white, black, cadmium red, and yellow ochre has come to be known as the Zorn Palette and is still widely used by artists today. Edgar Degas, too, often experimented with different limited palettes to enhance the visual interest of his paintings.

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(left) Pablo Picasso, “Mother and Child”; (middle) Anders Zorn, “Hins Anders”; (Edgar Degas) “Place de la Concorde”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

As is the case with many of the techniques we talk about on the blog, you’ll spot a good variety of our artists who sometimes incorporate the technique of a limited palette into their work. Next time you notice one of these artworks, take a minute to really look at the work and think about why the artist might have chosen to limit themselves to just a few colors. Does it give an interesting overall harmony to the colors? Does it bring the focus instead to the composition, or perhaps the lines? Does it seem to enhance the mood or atmosphere of the work?

Here are two great examples of the way some of our Principle Gallery artists play with a limited palette. On the left, you can see two works by California painter Felicia Forte, who enjoys working with and exploring the possibilities of the iconic Zorn Palette. Another great example of a limited color palette can be seen in the great majority of paintings by one of the artists from our upcoming two man show, Tempo and Pause (opening April 17th!), Valerio D’Ospina. Check out his works (seen here on the right) to see the way that Valerio’s limited palette brings amazing focus to the energy, line, and composition of his dynamic cityscapes.

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(left two) Felicia Forte, “De Young Fountain” and “View to Alcatraz”; (right two) Valerio D’Ospina, “Looking Back” and “Warehouse at the Navy Yard”

Keep an eye out, because the preview for the Tempo and Pause exhibition featuring Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy will be available very soon! Shoot us an email at if you’d like to be on the list to see the digital preview as soon as it’s available!