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Checklist For A Successful Painting: Part 3

Permanent Linkby RichardDevine on Mon May 12, 2014 9:32 am

The use of tonal variations is probably the most important aspect of composition. It’s an easy way to create interest in the painting and to isolate the center of interest. Tone also sets the emotional level of the painting. It can represent high excitement with high contrast such as strong sunlit areas and deep shadows or represent sadness or melancholy with a narrow range of contrast. As an artist, you have to decide what emotion you want to get across to the viewer.
In addition to portraying emotion, contrast in tones helps to lead the viewer’s eye to the center of interest. The strongest contrast should be around the focal point of the painting, making it easy for the viewer to see your point. Contrasts can be used as the pointers.
Remember also to vary the proportion of lights, darks and middle values to make the painting more interesting. Making a simple value sketch allows you to see how well balanced the painting is. Just use three or four values and do a few sketches. Pick out the one that you feel most comfortable with. Don’t have equal amounts of each. Decide which value will determine the overall feeling of the painting and let that value dominate. Then, add the other two or three values in, in different proportions. Remember the phrase “mostly, some and a bit”. Mostly one value, some of another and bit of the last. And have the most change in contrast around the focal point.
After you’ve determined the value layout for the painting that you like, tailor the color to that layout. Color follows value in importance.
Many books talk about the properties of color, so we don’t have to go into any depth here. We just have to decide how to use the color to convey our idea. First, as I mentioned, use the value sketch as a basis for determining the combination of brights and darks so the balance of tone is maintained. Next, decide, based on the mood you are trying to convey, what colors to use. Choice of colors is sometimes easier if you think in terms of temperature. Do you want the painting to be warm or cool? Keep the choice of colors to a minimum. You want variety but not so much that the painting becomes chaotic. Pick out the dominant colors of the painting in such a way that you can mix all the others you’ll need from them. This keeps the painting more unified. A whole jumble of different colors will just be confusing. It’s a balancing act, too. The rule here, too, is “mostly, some and a bit”. Mostly one color or color group, some of another and bit of a third. Use this formula to set your center of interest.
Here is where a simple color sketch becomes valuable. The sketch will show you just how good the colors look together before you launch into your painting. It might be helpful to make a black and white photocopy of the color sketch and compare it to the tonal sketch to see if they agree.
All this preparation may seem like a lot of work before actually painting but I like as few surprises as possible when doing a painting. My paintings usually take many, many hours to do and if I’m happy of the layout, tone and color beforehand I’ve got most of the battle over. Then I can just concentrate on the mechanics of doing the painting. I don’t want to get two thirds of the way through and find the colors aren’t compatible and I have to start over.
Next time I’ll summarize all this in a checklist that can be followed for each painting.

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