Continued from previous column
At this point the sketch is called a value drawing. It is my experience
that if I get the value drawing right, the painting will come out right.
Everything up to this point is black and white, (and gray). Back in the
studio, there is no color reference. This frees me to use hues that establish
the mood of the work instead of what was actually in front of me. It's
my belief that color is the key to expressing emotion. I try to use it
like a chef uses spices, (more on this further on).
The next phase involves re-sketching small versions of the final drawing
several times onto watercolor paper. I try different color schemes on
these "thumbnail" sketches until I am satisfied. Here too, there
will be a dominant and a subordinate family of colors. I generally use
use color schemes which are harmonious, reserving any dissonant notes
for accents only where necessary. In this stage I also concern myself
with using color to create depth in the painting. Blues, purples and grays
recede into the distance, while reds, yellows and oranges come forward.
Even in terms of depth there is a need for the Three Bears. There should
be a dominant depth, lets say the foreground, a subdominant depth, maybe
the middle ground, and several subordinate depth in the near and far background.
The final concern is texture. By texture I mean the visual "roughness"
of the picture elements such as how much roughness I will show in a stone
wall, or smoothness on a porcelain surface. Texture too, will be dominant
When the painting plan is complete there remains only one more decision;
size. Once that's settled, (which will often be dictated by the size frame
that I have on hand), I am ready to transfer the sketch to the final painting
surface. If I have done the groundwork well, the painting will always
come out well.
The actual painting process is a thing of joy. I love the way paint runs
off a brush, how colors mingle, the smell of my materials. While painting
I am in a Zen like zone, where neither time nor problems exist.
My paintings seem more realistic than they really are. They are made
to convey a feeling of a place, rather than a map of a place. I hope you
Color - My great love and passion
A famous artist once told me that if the values are right, it does not
matter what colors you use. I almost agree. An inexperienced audience
will love a painting with the colors "pushed" just a little.
A more experienced viewer will be very comfortable with a completely distorted
color scheme. I want my work to have a realism to it, but will push the
colors quite far if the mood of the work requires it.
For example; My use of blue.
I really love blue. Here's why
On a sunny day, there are two light sources, the sun, and the sky. They
are almost equally strong. The sun is a concentrated light source. The
sky is weaker but much bigger. The sunlight is white, and the skylight
is blue. It should be obvious that shadows are illuminated only by skylight,
(and a little reflected light). Since the skylight is blue,
the less cloudy the day, the bluer the shadows. Most
people never notice this, but on an some level they they sense the presence
of blue in the shadows and their mood reflects it. People love
the sunniest day with the bluest of shadows.
This is a sketch of a real ski trail called "Why Not", at Steamboat
I used pthalo blue, straight out of the tube, for the shadows.
Interesting that people feel "blue" on a cloudy day.
I push my shadows very far to the blue if the goal is to create a happy
mood. For a somber painting the shadows will be more to the gray. There
is never no blue in the shadows. No point in depressing my audience.
If there are faces in the painting, the faces will tell you how to feel,
otherwise we have to establish the mood with color and value. Lightheartedness
will be established with light values dominating, with blue shadows and
with bright colors. Excitement results from a wide range of values and
from strong diagonal elements in the composition. Interest can be developed
interweaving erotic symbols. Of course the image can be critical.
I once painted a picture of a boy crying and holding a dead dog. No amount
of color could make that a happy picture.
There are hundreds of known ways to effect the mood of a painting. These
are just a few.
There is a lot more. Check back, as I plan to add to this as time and