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: