What Makes Good Art?, Part II

Missing something? Check out What Makes Good Art?, Part I.

We were right in the middle of discussing L’Hallali Du Cerf, by Gustave Courbet. We already covered Concept and Composition in the previous post, What Makes Good Art?, Part I, as general elements that tend to be present in anything that’s considered ‘good art.’

Here’s L’Hallali again, for reference, and because it’s pretty (protip: click the word to reference the painting in the article).

Gustave Courbet’s L’Hallali Du Cerf (or ‘Killing a Deer’)

Color Coordination

Artists employ Color Coordination, or Color Theory, to reinforce concepts, denote importance of individual elements in their work, and to show emotion in their images. In L’Hallali, we see Color Coordination at play in a couple of different ways.

Courbet uses the complementary colors blue and orange (or, rather, the brown/burnt siennas/oranges of hunting dogs) to create visual intrigue. The blue background of the sky and the orange-yellow foreground of hunt-related figures exist in opposition to one another, which keeps the eye (and owner of that eye) interested in the painting. Complementary colors were a particular favorite of the post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.

(We put ze bleu avec l’orange, oui? C’est bien!)

Courbet also uses ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ colors to further denote feeling, emotion, and even temperature. Yes, temperature. L’Hallali depicts a scene in winter where the viewer somehow feels cold, because Courbet took advantage of the cool blues, blue-whites, and almost violets in the background to give the sense of cold. By contrast, he uses ‘warm’ yellows, browns, and reds for the living figures — even the central deer.

You can use many colors for effect, and to achieve the ‘feeling’ you want in a render:

The Shepherds Son, user Kibosh. See image in the Daz Gallery and products used here.

Notice the subtle greens in The Shepherds Son, which reinforce the ‘natural’ feel. The Shepherd exists in contrast to that nature with his red vest and shirt (complementary colors, anyone?). The mild yellows of the field and country home are contrasted by the purple-gray of the sky, which suggests a storm is brewing.


GRRR… lighting. Lighting is everything, and nothing. Both wave and particle, light allows us to see the world around us, and is generally considered very important. Light is also absolutely essential in ‘good art,’ though it may be employed in different ways by the artist to achieve different effects.

Courbet’s primary use of lighting in L’Hallali is to drive an internal drama, and create a distinction between the ‘active’ elements of the scene and the ‘passive’ ones. The natural light is reinforced by shadows beneath the hunting dogs, horse, and deer, but Courbet also uses light to drive feeling.

The central deer and hunter-with-whip are the darkest figures of the painting, and close to the darkest elements featured in the painting (save the boot of the hunter-on-horse). This puts them in distinct contrast with every other element of the painting, and binds them together. Amid a bright and icy landscape, the ‘darkness’ of the deer suggests it will not belong to that landscape much longer, and, equally poignant, the hunter-with-whip is darkened by his connection to the deer, which the viewer also reads as the emotional darkness of the hunt, his act of violence.

Thankfully, the Daz Shop offers tons of different lights so you can light your scenes the way you want to. This includes tons of emissives, HDRIs, pre-built scenes, and individual lights that can be fixed to add drama, intrigue, and light to your scenes. And they can be used in some pretty cool ways:

The Lair, user Szark. See image in the Daz Gallery and products used here.

The Lair uses lighting to excellent effect, especially in its subtlety: what does it say about the depicted dragon-figures that they choose to live underground, in darkness? What about the ancient ruins they’ve taken over? The light comes from above — is it more powerful than them?


Balance works in mysterious ways. Balance, as far as art goes, means both balance and imbalance, and generally that there should be a reason behind the ‘weight’ that your figures, background, and foreground each bring to your artwork.

Balance also means a balance of concepts and figures, ideas and colors, light and dark. In L’Hallali balance is everything: the dark deer on a light background, the equal visual ‘weight’ of the forest to the left versus the horse to the right, the heaviness of the pack of hunting dogs at the bottom and the lightness of the clouded winter sky far in the distance. In Courbet’s balance, the deer is by far the ‘heaviest’ figure in the scene, far heavier than the mountainous background.

How can this be so? Because that’s the way Courbet made it. Your artwork should have careful intention behind its balance to achieve the desired effect, like in Friends?:

Friends?, user Hypertaf. See image in the Daz Gallery and products used here.

The wolf-figure and pixie/fairy-figure in Friends? are, in theory, diametrically opposed. But each carries their own weight and importance. The fairy-figure is dwarfed by the wolf-figure, and yet she controls the scene. This balance is carefully rendered and totally concept-driven.

Good art is big…

Sometimes, all it takes for art to stick with you is the size of the idea.

Other times, it’s the actual size of the art — the painting L’Hallali Du Cerf is 16.5 feet by 11.6 feet wide.

(that’s pretty big…) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Courbet_painting_L%27Hallali_by_Etienne_Carjat_(1867).png

L’Hallali Du Cerf is good art, and it’s an enormous painting.

Make art that’s just as big (in ambition) with Daz Studio.

And yes, there are many more elements that Good Art will often have.

Beauty is notoriously difficult to define, because beauty depends so much on who observes it and what they consider to be moving, important, or perturbing, so much that they have to look at it over and over again.

For good art, beauty doesn’t necessarily mean ‘beautiful,’ but rather that which makes art stay with you. This ‘staying-power’ can be because of figures, colors, concepts, or any other element of creation.

Good art doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, astounding, or hang on a wall in a fancy museum to be good art. It just has to be something that matters to you. If it matters to you, and if it uses Concept, Composition, Color Coordination, Lighting, and Balance in ways that intrigue you, then it’s probably good art.

Keep Reading: What Makes Good Art?, Part III is up next!

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