Monday, October 25, 2010

Tonal Key and Value Meaning in Paintings

To see examples of my paintings expressing tonal key and values visit

Artists are born with a natural talent of energy. When this talent of energy is harnessed and artistic skills are crafted to control and master the use of this force, artistic works can be produced. It is inspiration that kindles an artist to be motivated to do something with this power, and begin their search.

Artists seek to view an object in ordinary life different than non-artists. This alternative perspective is often just the choice of selecting one reality filter over another. As the following question outlines, is the glass half empty or half full - poses an example of different reality filters. Artists often spend a life time learning the skills required to see various filters within reality.

Reality filters are emotions projected onto three-dimensional objects or situations. They are the result of how we interpret what we do or see. These results are also recorded in our memory as experiences. Some recordings in memory or real-time events can be happy or sad. However touching an experience may seem, it is this experience that the artist wishes to express to the world. It is this process that makes the artist a true artist who is left to be vulnerable and open for criticism against his or her soul.  I use the term soul in this context, because I feel a piece of an artist dies with each painting being produced. It is the death of this energy that creates a bond between this world and the afterlife that is recorded within each painting.

The combination of talent, inspiration, reality filters, and experiences typically define an artist’s chosen tonal values for a given work of art that is in the making.

Tonal key is a term that describes overall tones within a picture. It’s the story of the pictures connection between lightness and darkness. This relationship determines the pictures mood and emotional impact, and is usually defined by the artist while staring at the initial blank canvas. However, impressionists focus on capturing this relationship produced by natural light during the painting processes being executed in plain air.

Consciously defining the relationship between light and dark tones and values typically reflect the artists’ process in how he or she struggles with expressing the complexities around their reality filters. It is the relationship between this complexity and the tonal key of a work of art that makes the finished product a personal and spiritual asset.

This asset is often rewarding only to the viewer of the work of art that vicariously experiences what the artist is feeling with his or her struggle. The work of art is really a liability for the artist. He or she is able to replay experiences one may not wish to revisit over and over again when looking at the work of art.

Tone or value is simply how light or dark an area is. It is independent of color or hue. However, some colors reflect more light than others, and produce a paler effect for that hue. For example, navy blue is perceived as a darker value than sky blue, because of how the light reflects off the color. Objects tend to influence how we interpret light reflected off color as well. For example, a person’s blue shirt may be viewed as lighter in the lights direct path, while darker in the indirect path of light.

The best way to initially understand value or tone and how it works is to view a picture in black and white. Every colors value can be reflected through a black to white scale. When studying black and white pictures to better understand and see values, you will see the importance of a colors weight and how every color within the picture needs to balance with the overall picture’s harmony.

When an artist is finished painting a picture, he or she often says it “works”. A picture “works” when its energy is expressed outward reflecting a harmonious nature of power, and is balanced with the energy from its environment.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Various Perspectives

To see examples of my paintings visit

Today’s blog is about taking down some notes on various perspectives that are used in drawing pictures and underlining paintings. One or more of these techniques can be used in prep work for creating a drawing or painting composition.

I will be highlighting the following perspective techniques: linear perspective, one point perspective, two point perspective, three point perspective, anamorphosis, and curvilinear.

Linear Perspective

Linear perspective is a mathematical technique for projecting the illusion of a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. This artistic perspective begins with a horizon line that defines the farthest distance of the background and a vanishing point. Orthogonals are drawn from the bottom of the picture plan to the vanishing point. This approach is used to define the foreground of the space. Figures and objects are drawn and related to orthogonals, the vanishing point, and the horizon line.  The image above expresses this perspective.

Reverse Perspective
It’s hard to believe we once did not understand linear perspective. Before the Renaissance period, reverse perspective was used in creating compositions for artwork. This technique leveraged off parallel lines that splay rather than converge as they approach a given horizon line. In sum, objects above the horizon line were drawn downward, and below the line were drawn up.

One Point Perspective
This technique only has one vanishing point that is identical to the principal point location on the horizon line.

The image below expresses this perspective.

Two Point Perspective
This technique uses two vanishing points. Neither of them are principal points that define a single vanishing line (horizon line).  

The image below expresses this perspective.

Three Point Perspective
This technique uses three vanishing points. Neither of them are principal points that define either of the three vanishing lines. 

The image below expresses this perspective.

Anamorphosis Perspectives
This technique defines a deformed image that appears in its true form when viewed in an unconventional way. It involves an artist drawing a grid over an original image and then translating the image block by block to a grid on a stretched surface. The desired viewing position for the composition would entail the eye of the viewer being positioned from a particular spot to see the appearance in a linear perspective – usually viewed from the side.

The above figure expresses this technique in the skull at the bottom of the painting. If you close your left eye, and put your right eye next to the screen, about half way up the painting and about 5-10 cm to the right of it, you will see its true intended form.

This technique is similar to Trompe L’oeil. For anamorphosis, the viewer is presented with something that does not make sense when viewed conventionally, but unconventionally one can see its true form. For trompe l’oeil, the viewer standing in a conventional place and the perspective tricks the eye into thinking the three-dimensional image is real. Below is a fresco painted ceiling capturing this illusion. Image one reflects the conventional view, as image two does not.

Image One

Image Two

This technique involves an artist drawing straight lines with an arch to them. Below, image one reflects a linear perspective. Image two reflects curvilinear.

Image One

Image Two

Some of the information above has been obtained from a more detail source:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Blue?

To see examples of my paintings visit

The Absence of Color
After art patrons look at my paintings I always hear “is this your blue period”. This statement is in reference to a phase Pablo Picasso once had. After a close friend killed himself, Picasso started painting all his paintings in various values of blue.

The answer to this question is no. I am not having a blue period.

So why blue?

Anatomy of a Painting
In respects to my style of painting and the problem I am trying to solve, a work of art can be broken down into the following layers:

A canvas is just a vehicle for transporting an artist’s idea into something tangible; a work of art you can see and touch.

At the fundamental basics a canvas is an empty piece of stretched cloth that could be made from hemp, linen, cotton, or some other relevant type of fabric.

A drawing is a two-dimensional work of art that consists of lines organized in such a way to create an image. Depending on the type of drawing, an image can express depth or take on a flat appearance.

When shade is applied with different values you can create the illusion of form and volume within the objects of the overall image.

Various object placements within the drawing create a composition for the image. A given composition will naturally control the viewer’s eye path and create a focal point. It is the artist’s intent to try and control this path and focal point by pre-determining the layout of a composition before executing the drawing.

Paint is made up of the ratio relationship between a natural resource pigment and a binding medium.

For example cobalt blue is made up of the pigments from the natural resource metal Cobalt and linseed oil. Back in the 1500s, egg yolk was used for a binder in creating oil paint with natural resource pigments.
Overall, paint is just another form of medium used in the process.

After a canvas contains a drawing or sketch done with a charcoal pencil, I usually stare at it for hours before I begin to paint it with an alla prima impasto technique. I try and envision the painting painted on the surface before I begin the execution.

This is a critical part to the process. The desired outcome is no different than the desired outcome in an initial drawing – a hope to control the viewer’s eye path and composition focal point.

The problem I am trying to artistically solve is how to split and differentiate the difference between a drawings composition focal point and a painting’s composition focal point.

Traditionally these focal points have been one of the same. When a painting is dissected as above, you can see we really have two compositions and focal points. One is in the drawing layer and the other is in the painting layer.

In order to splitting the two compositions and focal points, I need to increase the drawing layer’s z-axis depth on the canvas by creating the illusion of voyeurism in the composition. The focal point will be split on the painting layer composition described below.

Absence of Color
In order to focus on solving the problem and have it reflected in the final work of art, I need to re-define the meaning of a painting.

A painting is the result of the arrangement of pigments and binding mediums mixed and manipulated in a way to create the illusion of objects and how they relate to one another on a flat surface. It is the value of the paint that creates the illusion of form and volume no different than shading in a drawing.

Based on my basic definition of what makes a painting, color has no place in the final product. A painting should be created with the absence of color. Color is a distraction to the overall painting.

Because the true absence of color is white, and blue is the predominantly favorable psychological color for humans to gravitate toward, I substitute white for blue in my works of art.

Given the absence of color and my substitute choice of paint, the heart of my paintings is in the value study of the color’s tone and how both compositions work off each other in various mediums.

Bringing It All Together
After bringing all the layers described above together, the final step is to split the two focal points.

This is accomplished through a voyeurism technique in the drawing composition, but greatly enforced in the painting layer by painting its focal point an overall contrasting color to the balance of the overall painting.

For example, most of my painting layers are composed out of a value study of blue, and a primary focal point of green.

In respects to the layers control of the viewer’s eye in looking at a painting, the drawing composition has a natural flow based on the placements of the objects. The painting composition’s flow is based on the impasto style brush strokes that intentionally take on a new form within the painting. Brush strokes logically represent an object no different than an object in the drawing layer.

The final outcome each painting hopes to achieve is to create one primary split second focal point for the viewer and a secondary one that becomes primary after consistent viewing of a painting – they switch roles over time.

To see examples of my paintings visit

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How To Read Artistic Innovation In Fine-Art Oil Paintings

Definition of Innovation
Innovation can be defined as a new way of doing something. A process that may change the way wethink about a problem in ways that can be viewed as emergent, radical, or even revolutionary.

Innovators are often referred to as pioneers in a new process of executing an old task. It is thefinal process that shows the real value in innovation, and the experimental phases and sweat equityleading up the final phase that create what one would call a stroke of genius.

For example, Picasso did not invent painting, but rather give the art community a new way to thinkabout an old problem: how to render a three dimensional object – form. The innovation in answeringthis problem falls in challenging the traditional definition of what makes a form a form.

The result of Picasso’s sweat equity and experimentations created a new process in creating a form.It also redefined what a form means. This process was picked up by other artists and became known asCubism in the 20th century avant-garde art movement.

Artist Statement
For an innovative artist, his or her Artist Statement must be clear in defining the problem statementone wishes to solve. It should also list a collection of experimental options he or she has or willtravel down.

It is the artist’s defined theory and list of conjectures that need to be proven true or false thatmake up the heart of the Artist Statement. This information is the core communication message betweenwhat the artist is trying to do, and an enthused art patron interested in understanding the artist’s work.

Body of work
A collection of artistic work is created during the experimental phase of innovation. It is criticalthe Artist Statement is updated and revised during this process and as the process comes to closure.

Once the artist is able to solve the initial problem defined in the Artist Statement, consistency needsto be reflected through consecutive works of art over a short amount of time. Looking back in hindsightat the body of work, the artist will know if this process is coming to an end and the craft is being matured.

Putting it all together
I can’t recall how often I heard “my child can do that” when looking at a Jackson Pollock painting. The truthis perhaps they could, but with a little bit of luck. Not to mention a lack of understanding in its socialmeaning and impact.

It is highly unlikely that the masses would see value in such a one hit wonder.

What the art patron who is not familiar with a given artist needs to do first is read the artist’s statementto understand what he or she is trying to do. Once you have an understanding of the artist’s objectives,review the body of work in sequence to see if they have accomplished their set goals. In reading a body ofwork, you are looking for consistency and predictability.

This knowledge will be priceless in making an investment into the artist as a collector, benefactor, or supporter.

For more examples on this topic see

Artistic Thoughs For Self Awareness

Current Oil Painting Project
I have currently set forth the following goal: To fully master the concept of value, composition, form, volume, and focal points, with out the use of color.

For me, at this time, color does not belong in a painting;it is simply a tool. It is the physical characteristics of the paint, when used correctly in its simplestform that can create the illusion of an object. It is also important to separate the focal point from thecomposition within the painting. Try and create two distinctively different logical layers within the finalproduct. The composition is intended to balance the objects within the painting, but the focal point of thepainting, not the composition, should direct the viewer's eyes. That is correct, we do have two focal pointsto think of: one within the composition and the other within the painting - two different things to enrich theviewer's subconscious and conscious levels. Color is only added as a tool to channel the viewer's eyes towardthe painting's focal point.

Once a body of work is created for this goal, I intend to publish it on-line and attend fairs throughoutthe United States.

You can view my portfolio(s), statement, biography, and resume

Recent Artistic Success
Success is a relative term. I view success as setting a goal and reaching it.

In terms of my painting style, I set a goal and through a couple of finished paintings I review the body ofwork to see if that goal has been reached in each painting. If the body of work reflects the goal and is consistentthroughout the later paintings, then I view this as success. I have reached a goal and mastered it.

As far as financial success, I have sold several drawings and paintings, but it is not the financial rewardthat drives me.

Special Artistic Expertise
Although my art career has spanned over 20 years, I have not had traditional commercial success as a result tomy interests and motive.

In the beginning I copied paintings of the impressionists only to have one teacher ask me a life-changing question.Why are you trying so hard to master a 100 plus year old style, was the question. This question made me realize theimportance of art history. It is only through studyingthe history of painting, and understanding what goals were set forth for each style by each artist, that a studentartist can break away from the pack and truly challenge oneself in a new direction.

It is the avant-garde, the innovative ideas and techniques that motivate me to fully understand what one can do withthe basics of oil painting. In the end, it is the innovative ones that are remembered and immortalized. Allothers take second place. The cost of this path and dedication turns majority of the artists off and they fall into thecommercial success formula that currently works today.

Most collectors invest in styles and ideas that fall within a well-known formula of success to minimize their return oninvestment. Very few target the high-risk artists were the return on investment is high - resulting in delaying thecollector's financial gratification.