I recently completed a painting which showed three fellows dressed in black. To give the impression of light falling on black fabric, I used a fairly dark purple for the "lit" areas. Anything lighter would have taken away the integrity of the tone value of the black fabric.
The same thing applies in reverse....let's say you had a person in a white shirt in your picture. There are shadows where the person faces away from the sun. You need to use a tone to depict the shadow on white...go too dark, and somehow you "lose" the whiteness of the shirt. You may only need to use a couple of tones "down" from white, to suggest shadow.
|Take a look at the light patches on the men's clothing in both pics, and compare to the shadows on the whites.|
You may have been told to squint. Perhaps you wondered why. It is not an affectation........it should be part of your arsenal of tools. Squinting simplifies things, and gives a general feeling of the values and shapes you see before you. A good way to use squinting, is to use it to compare areas. Squint like crazy and see what still pops out at you. This is really important information. You may think that the lightest part of your scene is one thing...it might be something else entirely and will come as a surprise when you squint. Also, squinting takes away certain unimportant complications - like how many bricks in the wall, how many leaves on the bush. These elements may be unimportant in the grand design. Try to make squinting second nature to you.
HOW DO I ACHIEVE MY OWN, PERSONAL STYLE?
Trying to achieve a particular style is pointless. It will happen anyway. There is no right or wrong way to go about achieving a particular look to your work. It is all about growth as an artist, and will happen automatically. Relax about it.
USING ABSTRACT SHAPES
You use them all the time. Does this surprise you? You might think of yourself as a totally figurative painter. You may actively DISLIKE abstraction, and abstract paintings. You may feel that abstraction is boring because it represents nothing in particular. Well, actually, you are working with abstract shapes all the time. The shadow on the side of the tree is an abstract shape - draw it without drawing the rest of the tree and what do you have? An abstract shape. Thing is, you need to observe that shape PROPERLY to get it right, and for it to "knit" with the rest of the shapes within the image, to create a recognisable form. If you draw your shapes with accuracy, and sensitivity, you will find your work strengthened as a result.
In fact, a figurative and an abstract artist may have more in common than might be obvious. As the figurative painter stares at his subject, he may, as his experience develops, begin to notice subtle connections and rhythms , echoing shapes and forms, things which are invisible at first glance, but which reveal themselves to the sensitive eye of the painter. It is these abstract shapes, balances and rhythms which will bring the painting to life. For example, the way the shape of a group of trees echoes the shapes of the clouds; the way the angle of a leg leads us into the picture, and the opposing angle of an arm prevents us from moving too quickly out of the picture; the way our eye is drawn to a colour or tone contrast in an important focal area- subtle stuff, but there to be found and used. The subject matter could be thought of as the "top layer", but at the same time, the abstract or formal pictorial elements can provide a fascinating further layer of interest. The feed-back between subject matter, and these underlying pictorial elements, will give the image its unique inventiveness.
NO IT DOESN'T COME NATURALLY
I am often asked, by non-artists, if I could "always draw", as if any ability I have is therefore a "gift". When I explain to them that actually, no, I couldn't always draw, that I have had to work hard to refine any skills I may now appear to have, they look quite sceptical. "But surely it isn't possible to teach someone how to draw....I could never be taught, I cannot even draw a straight line" is the next comment............and so I patiently explain that if I told them a story in a foreign language, they would not understand the story.........but if they had learned the language, they would be able to understand the story..........and some comprehension, if not full belief, dawns. Reluctantly. "Well perhaps you are right. But.... (always comes the "but"). Then they say " It must be a wonderfully relaxing thing to do" . No, I say, it is about as relaxing as bathing a cat. And I leave them to chew on that for a while........
I wonder how you deal with these questions. They seem unavoidable to me.
I will leave you to mull over these few little thoughts, and hope to come up with something a bit more meaty for the next post!!!