Welcome to Compose. There's lots of stuff here, all about composing paintings.

Current entries appear in Dianne's weekly newsletter.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Keeping Colors and Values Clean

Many emerging painters complain about their values not being “clean” and most are at a loss as to what to do about it.  If you’ve never heard this particular term before, having “clean values” is simply artspeak for a work of art with convincing colors and strong, visually meaningful values like in this little forest scene painting by James Gurney.
Gurney’s darks, midtones and lights each play a role in defining something specific about the forest. His shadows and lights describe the position of the light source as well as its effect upon the subject, so there’s no doubt about what’s going on.  Let's take a closer look at some of the mechanics at work here.
1.  Meaningful Focal Point
Notice how clearly defined are the lights on the tree and the deep dark shadow shapes contrasting on either side of it.  

2.  Clearly Rendered Shadows
Look at the value, hue and intensity modulation in Gurney's moderate and shallow shadows, and how easy our eyes transition from the shallow shadows in the upper tree foliage to the deep shadows near the ground. 

3.  Readable Angles of Light
We have no trouble discerning the angle of the sunlight nor reading the scene as being lit from a single light source. 
These composition considerations go a long way towards yielding clean values and colors, but they must go hand in hand with a few technical practices.  Here are four I suggest:

1. Constantly clean your brush
Make a habit of holding a brush in one hand and a paper towel in the other. Any time you switch colors, rinse and wipe the brush by squeezing it out with the paper towel.
2. Don’t skimp on paint—cover the surface
Too little paint often results in weak color. Use adequate amounts of paint to cover the surface and avoid trying to stretch your paint by spreading it so thin that the texture of the surface comes through.
3. Avoid over-stroking and over-blending
Start thinking of your brush as a tool to shape the paint, not just as an applicator of paint. This means slow down. Be deliberate with each stroke and avoid repeating a stroke in the same spot.
4. Find the right hue to lighten your colors
Do you reach for white each time you want to make a color lighter? Well stop.
Adding white changes the color temperature AND the value, making the color look dramatically different. Rather than automatically reaching for white, try to find another color that will give you the value change you need without neutralizing the original hue. (Watercolor painters will know to use the water for making a value lighter.)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Way to Choose Colors for Modulation

To modulate is to make a gradual change within whatever is being modulated. In music, a single chord can modulate to another key just by passing through a chord both keys have in common.  In painting, one way we can modulate color is to use this same principle--move from one color to another THROUGH a hue each has in common.
Within this image of a fall tree, we can see greens reflecting onto the orange leaves. 
One way to modulate this in paint is to use the hue both green and orange have in common:  yellow.  We'll take our color from the small sample I have circled.
 In the example above, I've modulated in a high intensity.  If we change the intensity, the modulation looks more realistic for the shadowed areas.
But the one thing we've not yet mentioned is VALUE.  For modulation of hues and intensities to be successful, it works better for colors being modulated to be in the same value range.  Give it a try.    

P. S. This principle of modulating with a hue both colors have in common is perfect for any two colors that are not both primary colors.  If you want to modulate two primary colors, simply mix one into the other at the SAME value and intensity.  You'll be modulating through their secondary hue.  

Our August Series of Video Tutorials
If you feel like you're in a wrestling match when working with color, this new series of video tutorials might be just what you are looking for.  I've focused the series on two of our most difficult colors with which artists work:  greens and yellows.  This week's lesson Tacking Greens hones in on how to modulate greens by varying their intensity and hue within local value areas.
What You Can Expect When You Become My Student
When we're filming the video tutorials, I have you in mind.  I have learned to think of the camera as my classroom filled with students eager to learn the concepts with which I'm working while giving that particular lesson. Those decades of teaching college and in my own art school prepared me for this.

When you purchase a video lesson, you become my student, but you become a member of a virtual classroom as well.  We have set up the Forum on Facebook for you to interact with others as well as get reinforcement from me. Today's technology allows me to talk directly to you via video on Facebook, a free service included when you purchase any video lesson, whether download or DVD.