Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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Think about tone AND colour

With examples from two very different paintings it's easy to show how colour and tone (light through to dark) need to be thought about together

Have a look at this painting I did on location in King Street Cambridge. The colours look quite dull don't they?



But the picture as a whole isn't dull. Why is that? It's because the tonal contrast (or value range as it's often called) is high. This is clear when I convert the photograph of the painting to monochrome. There's everthing from almost pure white through to almost pure black:

king street cambridge black and white

OK, what do you think of this painting reproduced here in monochrome?

roses in monochrome
Looks really dull doesn't it? Why? Because the tonal range is so restricted. It's hard to see edges between dark and light areas so the viewer can make sense of where the flowers are. OK, but what if we look at the same painting in its original form (I painted this in oil pastels on location in the rose garden at Anglesey Abbey. You can view the video of me painting it here) in colour?

roses in oil pastels
Wow - NOW it makes sense. Because the colours contrast with one another, the lack of tonal difference pales into insignificance and the painting comes together.

So keep in mind that tonal variation isn't everything - neither is colour contract everything. Both can be used to make a painting work well