Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mull it Over Monday: Applying 80/20 to Painting

Lone Fressia  oil on wood  8" x 8"  Available here.
80/20:  Mostly gray, 20% color. 
Back in the 90's I had a wall dedicated to "art and photos that inspire."  It was a mostly a collage of art magazine clippings...  I looked at it when I need a little giddy-up in my get-up-and-go. These days I keep eye popping art in a folder on my computer. It's more managageable and easier to update. Some images become old fast, some retain their motivational qualities over time, all are worthwhile.
I'm forever trying to identify "why" I like what I like. (and if I figure it out, of course how do I infuse my art with it.) Some identifiable traits I fancy time and time again: Art that combines representational painting with abstract, technical brilliance, "cute," "hot colors right now," and "graphic." I happened to see a video on Apartment Therapy and it fleshed out another trait I didn't really know about: 80/20. 80/20 is a ratio that applies not only to decorating one's apartment. It's good for painting too! (...not to mention easier to grasp than the golden mean.)  Our brains are hard wired to sizzle upon encountering this visual ratio. It's relatively simple: Just like a neutral livingroom pops with a few orange pillows, so too will a gray landscape pop when we see a bit of cerulean blue peeking through the clouds.
John Stamos is one of very few
who can pull off the 50/50 mullet.
I took another look at my inspiration folder and immediately recognized paintings that incorporate 80/20!
If you find yourself struggling with a painting, consider applying the 80/20 ratio! Too much chaos? Too busy? Too dark? Sometimes less is more and knowing how much less can turn an otherwise boring painting into something special.


  1. Another good Monday post, Diane!

    Love your painting with just one flower. I like the simplicity and the pop of blue against the gray. I think I will add it to my inspiration folder! :-)

  2. I had only heard of 80/20 as it applies to nutrition (be true to the 'diet' 80 percent of the time and don't beat yourself up over the 20% that you 'slip'), but I love this idea in terms of painting. Once again, thanks, Diane!

  3. That was an interesting video, Diane. Thanks. I'll start noticing that 80/20 ratio in paintings now and see what I think about that. I do like calm paintings with a touch of color....Susan Nally's painting are a perfect example of that. But I also love bright, riotous colors in paintings too, like Robert Burridge. It's an interesting post, though.

  4. Great thought! And, seems so obvious...less is more!

  5. Thank for your comments, all!! Yes, 80/20 applies to many things from marketing to dieting!! Found on Robert Genn's quotes page: “Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” --Jim Rohn Love that.

  6. Beautiful picture Diane and great post. Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind comment. :)

  7. Great painting, love the smoothness of the colors!
    I have been following for a few weeks now and I pass by your blog almost daily. Love the way you paint the cats. If I could do that I guess mom would be very happy (she loves cats).

  8. Diane, I'm so inspired! Thanks!


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