Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turn Up the Contrast class results


I think this turned out to be a really good class! I always enjoy the energy of a larger group and our ranks swelled a bit today, which was fun. Good to see a few of you I hadn't seen in a long time, too... 

I offered a series of questions and asserted some pretty basic things about contrasting values and the role they play in composition. I don't think any of the things I said were a mystery to anyone there, but reminders can be good. If you want more details on this, visit the chapter in my book blog titled Letting Value Lead.

Think about these:
  • Value contrast creates a composition. No contrast, no picture. 
  • Value contrast is most evident when black is next to white. 
  • Strong contrast is useful for controlling attention. The greater the difference, the more attention the area attracts.
  • Value contrasts lead the viewer into and around the painting in an interesting, planned way.
  • Similar values placed together are not as visually interesting as highly contrasting values, which tend to attract the eye.
  • Middle values usually provide the framework for the painting, with light and dark value contrast giving the work its visual impact.
  • When the value range is reduced the eye still goes to the area of maximum contrast, but the design loses impact. 
  • A wider range of tonal values will have a stronger impact.
You construct the composition by creating a wide range of tones, controlling the movement of your viewer’s eye, and creating interest in the painting. Value contrast plays a big part in painting, the most important of which is moving the eye around, manipulating attention. More contrast, more interesting. Less contrast, less interesting. Value contrast is the visual impact of a painting, the oomph, the pizzazz, or lack thereof.

If your composition lacks a lot of contrasting values it’s visually boring. Oddly, if your composition is consistently high in contrast all over, it’s also boring. So it isn’t about just upping the contrast to make the painting interesting. Instead you have to control the contrast to move the eye. Create your value structure with well-placed medium values, massed together, providing the underlying organization, and place stronger contrasts in key areas to attract attention, and then modulate the remaining values to induce further movement around the painting.

Here's a peek at my painting in progress. First my plan, next to the photograph. I often make a plan and then see where it goes as I paint. It helps me to think it through beforehand. The reality became somewhat different, as you can imagine. 

 How can I improve the contrast to direct the eye in the painting?

In grayscale you can see that it’s very dramatic, but the light is outlining the cloud because it’s backlit. Most of the light contrast is on the right-hand side. It’s awkward to attract the eye so close to the edge. So to remedy this, I plan to move the top of the cloud to the left, and create more of that light sheen in a pattern leading the eye around the cloud.

Rather than make it two twin clouds overlapping, I’ll reduce it to one cloud, off-center in the composition, and draw out some of the interesting smaller clouds on the right to create an overall shape that points the eye into the cloud itself.

The contrast on the ground needs to remain dull, supportive but not attractive to the eye, as do the smaller, lower clouds. The blue of the sky should be dark enough to give the lights real pop, while remaining believable. 

And as you can see, I decided to move the cloud to the right, instead of the left, creating a sinuous movement of the whole cloud with the smaller, sparkling clouds in front.

I saw some dynamite work in progress, too. None of these is finished, of course, but I hope you can see how talented my students are!






And this shows a few of the gals at work in our spacious classroom with wonderful light.

At work in the classroom.
Patti brought in a sculpture of a crow and is sight measuring it, of course.

It's going well. Keep going, gang!

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