Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drama, Mystery, and Oomph


Evening Palms, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

I continue to work on my cityscapes, pushing abstraction and trying to make sense of my processes.

This particular painting is a good example of a "single color theme" structure. The driving factor behind color decisions is that I have a subjective color (yellow) predominating everything.

See, it's basically a monochromatic painting, with just a little bit of local colors thrown in. I start off with a transparent brownish underpainting, and then develop an opaque yellow (more or less) monochromatic painting, sticking to the value structure established in the underpainting.

Only after I have a good  opaque single-color (single "hue" might be more accurate) painting, I start to work in the local colors, taking care to keep the harmonies super tight so as to not fragment the color structure. The red tail lights can be a little more saturated because they're their own light source, and not nearly as affected by the yellow light.

Unlike the more colorful high-key impressionist approach, there is very little temperature shifts between light and shadow of the same surface. (except in the extreme foreground)  In fact, this is key. If I push the temperature shifts to the point I can easily discern the hue changes from light to shadow, I no longer have a tonalist painting. Not to say one is better than the other, but it's a completely different system and it's best not to mix the two.

What we do have at our disposal is the ability to use, and get away with, very dark shadows. In a color-filled high key painting, shadows have to be much lighter in value in order to accommodate more saturated color. (They're illuminated by ambient and bounced light, which means they can't be all that dark)

Where saturated colors and color contrasts are missing in a tonal painting, we can use dark values to give the painting some drama, mystery, and oomph.
"Oh but so-and-so does both in one painting", you might say. or "I like to have both drama and bright colors in the shadows".  Great! I'm not stopping ya~



15 comments:

  1. This is a very beautiful piece. I do love the monochromatic one color scheme. Lovely idea I think. It would be good practice for me to try this. Thank you Terry.

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  2. Very effective painting and very well explained. I like the idea of a tonalist painting with a minimum amount of local color. Really appealing.

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  3. This is pure awesomeness. Just cant have enough of this one. Loved it the moment I saw it on facebook too. Thank you so much for sharing the logic behind this masterpiece.
    Best wishes,

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  4. Thanks Randy~ yes yes try it. It doesn't hurt that much :-D

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  5. Thanks Carol~ Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This one, happily, did.

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  6. Thanks again Vinayak~ If you like this one, there's more to come!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, I've started using this method too (but then mess it up by adding to much color and detail, oh well.)

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  8. thank you. i've had to think while reading this. very good.
    do you tone the whole canvas first before sketching in?
    kinda like the antique setting on iphoto. .. well..kinda.

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  9. Great painting. I do something similar with my still life work. Love your work!

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  10. Bibi, thanks. I hear ya about too much color and detail. It never seems to get easier.

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  11. Thanks mel, I sometimes tone the canvas, sometimes not. This particular painting was not, but I don't have a particular reason for the decision not to. It was just whim.

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  12. Thanks Kimberly~ I don't do still life but yeah, I can imagine this would work very well with interior stuff.

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  13. Thanks Terry for sharing this approach; can't wait to try it. Are you painting predomintantly wet over wet or wet over dry as your layers progress?

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  14. Thanks Michael, I prefer wet on wet, but with a large painting that's not always possible so I do paint wet over dry also.

    Each time I come back to a new session with the canvas, the previous layer is dry. I brush Liquin over the entire surface, not so much to fake a wet surface, but to bring back the dark values. I then go on to pretty much repaint the whole thing, so I'm painting wet on wet, over a dried painting. I repeat this as many times as necessary.

    The second half of the process becomes increasingly focused on abstraction and surface work, and the wet on wet vs wet on dry issue becomes less and less relevant, because I'm not looking to model forms at that point.

    I hope that made sense LOL

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  15. Love this one Terry, Belle ambiance .

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