By | July 3, 2016

Can you see that I used the exact same process for all these pictures? No Kidding: Identify the LIGHTS, all else becomes MID-TONE, add DARKS, finally, add DETAIL. Read on below the pictures – and read the ‘Step-by Step Post’ re each picture – Blossoms, Apple, Sailboat, Girl  🙂

I am putting up individual posts that show the process for the four representational paintings. The abstraction was done the same way, but is demonstrated in a prior post. The portrait of a girl is an acrylic, but the same process works for watercolor portraits.




Tonal Painting – (Step-By Step sheets & videos will follow.) Painting is fun, but seems a vast thing to understand at first. Try to learn and practice this (relatively simple) formula as a foundation, then branch out. Focus on TONES. At first, keep the hues and saturation really simple, even using blues or grays. In the videos along the way we will deal with techniques, such as making competent washes & gradations, hard-soft edges, masking, etc. All of the above pictures followed these exact steps. In fact, I use this sequence for almost every painting I do. Here we go –

Tone  (Also called tonality or tonal value) is the lightness or darkness of a color compared to a gray scale. Learn to use tone without worrying about hue or saturation for a while. Most paintings can be analyzed and thought of this way: Three to four tonal values plus detail. The LIGHT-TONED SHAPES give sparkle and will always attract the eye, especially if they touch darks creating high contrast, so distribute or locate them in an interesting way. The MID-TONE SHAPES are often where the rich subtleties are. The DARK-TONED SHAPES give impact and help to clearly form the Mid-Tone shapes, as well as, form strong contrasts where they touch the light shapes. In practice, you end up with more than just three tones because of your painting moves, but try to think in terms of three to simplify and learn the process. We can find examples in the major genres of Landscape, Portrait, Still-Life, and Abstraction. Here is the process –

First, identify the LIGHT SHAPES – This might be the sky clouds & a sailboat; the light falling on a face; the light on the side of a bottle & apple; or the light shapes in an abstraction.

Then, shade all else to a midtone, equal to about a 50% on a gray scale.

Second, identify the MID-TONE SHAPES  – Shapes that you wish to identify and conserve. This could be parts of the sky and land or water; the human cheek and background; the average tone on a bottle and apple and parts of the background; or the middle tone shapes in an abstraction.

Third, add the DARK TONE SHAPES – (Remember to leave the lights alone). Shade all else around the identified shapes in the mid-tone areas to a dark tone, equal to about 80% on a gray scale.

Fourth, add DETAIL – Details are ‘smaller, finer marks that seem to mean something. For example, trees on an island, ripples in the water, lines on a sailboat; hair, eyes, nose lips on a face; the stem of an apple and writing on a bottle label; the splatters and calligraphic marks, even writing, in an abstraction.

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