top of page
Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

The Magic Triangle

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. On my recent trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado a friend who is a rancher got me permission to wander around on this historic ranch and gather material for paintings. I am looking forward to a return trip when I can do some plein air painting on this ranch that abounds with interesting subject matter.

As an artist, it is my job to decide what things or areas I want to emphasize and direct the viewers eye through the painting. Look carefully at this painting and decide what you think is the focal point or main point of interest. Can you see what I used to direct your eye to different points of interest? Is it the window where I placed the lightest light next to the darkest dark? Is it the blue chair where the cast shadow across the snow directs your eye? Or is it the blue bucket placed against the rich red color and the rope weaving through the grass and attaching to the bucket?

The answer is all three. If you draw an imaginary line from the window to the chair then to the bucket and back to the window it forms a triangle and this is a composition know as the "Magic Triangle" where three dominate colors or shapes form a triangle within the painting. The three dominate points of interest keep the eye from wandering out of the painting. Each one is interesting in its own way and, each time you look, a different one may seem more important than the other two.

The old weathered barn wood was fun to paint and I used a lot of dry brush where I dragged paint over colors that I had already put down and allowed to dry. The snow on the hillside is mostly unpainted white paper and I spattered some white opaque watercolor for the snow in the foreground. The barn wood is combinations of raw umber, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, burnt umber and yellow ocher. This is one of the painting locations that we will be visiting in my Steamboat Springs Watercolor Workshop on July 30th, 31st and August 1st. For more information send me an email to or contact the Steamboat Art Museum. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton


Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

Recent Posts

Find out about upcoming workshops, urban sketching events & get a FREE watercolor lesson every Sunday in your email:

bottom of page