At first glance, the concept of tone may seem “vague and insignificant”; but it is one of the most important concepts in art. It seems easy, but it is difficult in practice. Why? Because “tonality” is an optical phenomenon; and, as any optical illusion, is perceived as “not real”. Our brain does not acknowledge it. For the human beings, color is important (we choose clothes by color; we judge fruit by how ripe it is, etc.), but noticing the tone often seems useless and unnecessary. We assign significance to distinguishing the green traffic light from the red, but we absolutely don’t care which of them is darker and which is lighter. It does not even occur to us to compare.
Understanding Tonal Value – Simplified Version. [Drawing from an Arrangement of Boxes Shaped as a Reclining Figure].
Fig. 1. Old Master’s drawing.
Study by Luca Cambiaso, 1527-1585
How a seemingly disastrous situation: my model calling in sick(!) 30 minutes before the start of the class last Saturday, turned into one of the most successful classes on tonal value ever.
Your painting style depends on many things: your temperament, speed, intention, inspiration, skill, even how much paint you squeeze on your palette! One rarely considered factor is the way you hold your brush. It effects the character of your painting. You can change or acquire a new style by adopting a new grip. (more…)
Drawing is multi-tasking. There are many issues that the artist should deliberately address in drawing. With practice, this awareness turns into the ability to see. I have been asked a lot to publish a list of these issues. I recommend to all my students (and other artists) to print it out and use it as a guide.