Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tricks for Tonal Value

For any artist, there are things we can handle instinctively and things we have to think about a little more.  For me, including a full and dynamic range of value takes more time and thought.  Thankfully, I had a painting teacher who was full of fun tricks, who gave me this idea. 

I took a plank of luan, and gessoed one side of it.  I marked the center and taped it off.  I then painted one half of it a middle grey (a 1:1 mix of black and white).  After it was dry, I centered the glass with the wood extending past the glass about 1/2 inch on all sides, and caulked it into place.  This is then what I use as a palette.  As I mix paints, the grey helps me judge the value of these colors.  Everything looks dark against white, so the grey lets me see whether it's on the light or dark side of center. 

The same teacher had other interesting ideas, like
  • Marking a complete value scale on the palette
  • Marking lines or sections by which you could measure paint, to allow for accurate reproduction of mixed colors
  • adding a color wheel to the palette
He takes this analytical approach to mixing paints because he's colorblind.  And you know what?  His paintings are incredible, because of the wonderful range of value. The painting below is a model under satin sheets.  Would you look at that light?!

Another one of his tips was that if you use five evenly spaced values, we will interpret a full range.  Just five.  I try to make my big compositional decisions based on those five values. 

 Thanks, John Stewart!  Take a look at his faculty page on the school's site.  

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