Artists Magazine

Color, Mood & Atmosphere

There are a number of strategies that painters can use to create a sense of atmosphere and mood in a picture: They can limit the palette, restricting the range of color to confer a somewhat unnatural sense on the scene. They can simplify forms and edit out detail to engage the viewer in a more suggestive way. They can choose to paint light conditions that are especially atmospheric, such as rainy weather, twilight, snow or fog. And they can manipulate the space they describe, increasing or distorting perspective shifts to create unusual—and possibly evocative—feelings.

North Carolina-based artist Geoffrey Johnson employs all of these approaches simultaneously, combining them in paintings that project a world built of atmosphere and suggestion. With their simplified figures, restricted palette and dramatic tonality, his paintings succeed in being almost abstract while also evoking a powerfully compelling sense of place and situation.

A“Very Long Push”

The artist’s principle strategies are on display in (opposite), a view of the famous New York City landmark. The scene looks south into a powerful backlit sky, with buildings in the middle distance and a large open space in the foreground. People move across the broad space, simplified in a way that’s

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