- Lesson details
The concept of masses, the two-dimensional interlocking shapes that make up a painting, is one of the more difficult concepts to understand. Learn how to take all of the raw information found in nature and reduce it into simple, organized masses.
Landscape painting in a studio compared to painting on-location are completely different experiences, each with their own set of challenges to face. Painting landscapes on-location means you’re faced with constantly changing natural lighting, as well as nature, but the experience itself can really make your inspiration flow.
In this painting course, Artist Ben Fenske teaches you the fundamentals of landscape painting through a series of lessons. These lessons include easy to follow instruction, analysis of famous landscape paintings, and demonstrations shot on-location, to help you better your painting skills.
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It's one of the more difficult things to to understand in painting.
It took me years and years to under - really understand
what a mass is. I'm still learning about it actually,
so - but the basic definition of a mass,
it's - you can think of it as a two-dimensional
shape and you can think about the painting being composed of several two dimensional shapes interlocking.
A mass is a shape of similar value and similar color.
The job of a painter, one of the difficult jobs of a painter
is to take all the raw information that you see outside
and put it into these categories and organize it a bit. When you walk outside
you probably will be overwhelmed with information, leaves and clouds and branches and different colored grasses
and mountains and rocks and whatever you're looking at.
It's a lot of information.
So a good painter is able to look at that information,
organize it in terms of similar things, and simplify the information. And you simplify it by
creating these categories of masses.
So let’s just look at what that means.
I’m just gonna mix up a neutral color here.
I’m just mixing up a neutral black.
Okay. So masses can be thought of both in terms of value and color.
Let’s just look at how to go about dividing masses.
So a lot of people are aware that there are different objects in the landscape.
That's kind of how we talk, we talk about that's a tree,
that's a sky, that's a rock.
We have all these names for different objects.
But painters don't think about things that way, they think about groups of things.
And you might think about some things that are different objects that group together, because maybe
they're all in a shadow and have a similar value.
Or maybe they're completely different objects,
but they have a similar value and color.
Let's just take a look at what I mean here.
So let's draw a few objects.
I'm going to draw the road
going into the painting. Or a path. I'm going to draw a tree in the background.
Several trees actually, which I'm already grouping together now.
I’m gonna draw a tree in the foreground going off the page a bit.
I’m gonna draw some tree trunks and branches.
Maybe another tree. And maybe I'll draw a mountain in the background and some clouds.
So right now I've outlined a few objects.
But I haven't really decided about masses because I haven't thought about light and shadow.
I haven't thought about values.
But already to get to this stage I had to do a lot of interpreting.
I had to interpret where is the edge of this tree exactly because it's not very
clear outside. There's lots of leaves, especially in the foreground.
The edge of the tree needs to be interpreted.
The edge of the mountain is a little bit easier to interpret because it's so far
in the distance. And there might be all kinds of grass in this field growing different
flowers let’s say. There’s millions of leaves in this tree, millions of lives in this tree, there's a little -
maybe there's a little fence going back here,
a couple fence posts, and more grass here.
Lots of grass. But we have to take all this information and divide it into masses.
And a good picture will have clear masses, interesting shapes interlocking.
Let me show you what I mean by that.
So I’m gonna imagine the light - sunlight affect light coming from this direction
and that will start to throw certain things into shadow.
And I'm going to imagine a cast shadow going across the road.
And another cast shadow and a shadow in this tree back here. And I'm going to
have to again interpret. If I feel that there's enough difference between the shadow and a
light or if I feel that's an important distinction to make, I want to make two masses
hero, a shadow mass and a light mass. So I'm going to draw, again
I'll have to interpret where the edge is.
But I feel that's important enough and I won't draw distinctions.
So I'm starting to think what things can I group together and how can I
interpret those shapes to make two dimensional shapes on the canvas?
A lot of times you can start to think of big masses and then
subdivide them. So in this case,
I have a lot of shadows and I'm going to try to group them all together
in a shadow mass first. So I'm going to just kind of lightly
define that shadow mass. Just so you can imagine what it's going to look like.
So this is an abstract shape now of similar
colors and value that you might find in your in your picture.
And you can look at how certain objects become connected when you do this.
So the path and the field on the other side of the path start to connect
to the tree, to the fence. And you start to arrive at an abstract shape of
similar value in this case. And fairly similar color too.
So let's just look at this abstract shape.
Now okay, I've looked at my scene and I've come up with - I've drawn in
the objects and now I see that some of those objects, the shadows of some of
those objects, connect to make this interesting abstract shape
into a shadow mass. So I'm thinking
abstractly this shape now it's - if I were just to trace around this or let's just
trace around that shape again.
Maybe I'll do it in a different color so I can just see
what's going on there. Let’s just trace around this abstract shape, starts here, comes down here,
up and around, comes up here.
There's a little piece of it here.
It's disconnected. It's kind of an island.
And it comes around the outside of the object, comes down here, it connects to the
shadow of the tree behind it,
all the way down here, back onto the path and around, up.
So you can start to see that there's an abstract shape that these objects form under
certain lighting conditions. So this would be called a shadow
mass. And it’s up to the - it's up to the painter to make these interpretations and distinctions.
But this would be a common one, on a sunlight effect to try to group some
of the - some of the shadows together. Because often they're of very similar color and value.
So in the - let's move a little bit to the background or middle ground.
We might find another mass.
In this case another shadow mass.
And this one is going to be probably a little bit lighter.
So it's not the same mass as this one though.
It's a different mass. And again,
I have to interpret the shape of that mass.
And now we can start to look at the picture two dimensionally and abstractly.
So now we have some shadow masses interpreted.
And it's up to the artist again how to interpret those. I could divide this into
smaller masses. I could include the light, sunlight hitting the top of the tree.
I could include that in this mass if they're similar enough or if I want to
make them similar enough. So it's really it's up to the painter to decide
what are the masses and to interpret them.
But it's important to make those distinctions.
So let's look at another mass.
Let's look at a - let’s look now at the shape of the sky
mass. I’ll just outline that in white. So now the shape of the sky mass
I'm going to outline in white here.
It's this two-dimensional abstract shape.
Okay, and there might be a few little islands or what are called sky holes
within the pieces of the sky mass that are now inside of the tree shadow
mass Are we going to look at for interesting two dimensional shapes of those as well.
Okay. So now I've got our the sky mass is outlined.
I'm just going to sort up lightly
paint that in. So I've decided I've interpreted the sky, I said in the context of
this picture everything in the sky is similar enough that I want to group that together
and identify that as a specific mass.
So I'll just kind of make this a similar color and value.
And in this case, I'm going to say that the clouds are so similar
in color and value to the sky that I'll just group them all together right now.
Okay, so I'm thinking about this as a flat two-dimensional shape.
And there are little bits of the sky mass appearing here and here.
And I have taken information from nature and interpreted those shapes as well.
So now I have a shadow mass, foreground shadow mass,
I have a middle ground
shadow mass. And I might just make a distinction right away between those things.
I'll start making them separate. So everything in this shadow is so similar in color and
value that I want to mass it together.
And I want to distinguish it from this mass.
Okay, so I've got three masses to find now.
A good picture usually will have, I would say try to keep your masses under seven.
If you have more than seven masses you're not really simplifying and you're not really making
decisions. Let's look at a few other masses.
I have this field that I said was full of
all kinds of variety of flowers and grasses and different colors.
But it's all similar enough that I want to just group it all together.
Again, that's my interpretation of it.
So when I'm deciding if I need to group this all together or split it into several
masses, I need to look around the picture and I need to say is all of
this different enough from this and this trying to organize all the information.
So if it's similar to the sky I can group it in with the sky. In this
case it's not if it's similar to any of the other masses I can start your
group together. In this case I'm finding that its own separate mass that needs its own
color and general color and general value. So again,
I'm finding the I have to interpret the exact edge of this mess.
And it doesn't always have to be
a sharp edge or sharp line. So maybe in some places
it starts to dade into the next mass but the important thing is to have a
distinction between the masses so before you
start - before you start weaving things together
it's important to at least conceptually
divide things apart. Let me see, there's another piece of that same mass,
but it's over here. And there's another piece right here.
There's another piece right here.
And some of these things I'm designing specifically.
to - or I’m interpreting designing specifically to show that there's a tree here as a
tree trunk here. There’s a fence post here so I want to design the shape of
that around that. There's another piece of that mass continuing.
Okay. What's keep going? What's find a mass for the mountain and again,
it could be two masses.
It can be one, it can be grouped in with something else.
This is what you have to decide
as a painter. In this case,
I'm going to say it has its own
color, general color, general value. And we might see that a little island of that mountain
there. I’m gonna put some of the sky back in here,
okay. So you can see how this messes, they
don't have to be connected all the time.
They can have little pieces of them - pieces of them inside of other masses.
And we're almost finished here.
Let's make a mass for the path and sunlight
and another one, let’s fill in the tree and sunlight. So the key here is think about
these abstract shapes, think about them two dimensionally, and the other, the other key thing to
remember is that you have to interpret these things, they're not always apparent.
The skill of painting is being able to take all of that information,
simplify it into these bigger masses and it takes a lot of practice.
Let’s make a general - come up with a general tone for the for the sunlight
portion of the trees. Okay so far this is looking very flat and very graphic.
And that's really the point of this concept.
It's a concept of make it - taking all the information, organizing it into two
dimensional shapes, trying to see if you can link some of them some of the similar
shapes. And link things that might not necessarily be the same object.
But they're similar enough that you can link them together.
And I might say I might say subdivide this mass and say actually this portion of
the shadow mass is more similar to this.
But basically that's the idea of two dimensional shapes
and taking all the information.
Organizing it into those two dimensional shapes.
So the skill of the painter is to make interesting shapes, to interpret it in a
way that the shape will appear to the viewer like a shadow of a tree.
That's skill might be
called job. You might have to interpret the character of this tree, the character of this
edge, because you can't paint every leaf.
You can't paint around every leaf.
You cannot trace around every branch, every leaf, every blade of grass.
So you have to interpret information and interpret it in such a way that it still appears
like a tree. That's the hardest part about panting really.
So let's take a look at the idea of gradations and variety in a mass.
So there might be variety in these masses . If we stopped here,
this would be a pretty boring picture.
We could say it's very organized.
But it's a pretty boring picture doesn't look very realistic.
There's not enough variety.
but you can't stop there because it's too cut out, it’s too graphic.
So we need to introduce some variation
in the form of sometimes gradations and sometimes in a form of color and value
variation. So let’s look at that.
Before I go into too much variation
though, I just want to note that if your picture isn't working on this level
introducing the subtle gradations and a little bit of variations
might not help it that much.
So at this level the painting should work, should start to work.
So let’s look at typical gradation that you're going to see outside.
That would be sky gradation.
So a lot of times even though the sky is one mass or could be divided into
one mass, again that's up to you.
You might see a gradation
going from top to bottom, dark to light. So slightly darker at the top of the
sky going down to the bottom of the sky.
So that's a color and value gradation.
So it's still a mass.
Let's introduce a few clouds.
Now the way I have interpreted this scene is I've said that the clouds are
so similar to the rest of the sky that I just want to group everything together.
So they're just - in this scene the clouds will just be sort of variation within the
mass. Put a few subtle clouds in there.
So this is just really it's variation within a mess. If I veer too far
away from this general color,
I start breaking the mass or start to create a new
mass. Which is fine too,
if you want to do that.
But in this case, I want this all to read as one mass.
So I’m adding a little bit of variety with a gradation and a little bit
of variety with these clouds that are very similar to the rest of the sky.
Let's look at - let's look at another mass.
Let's look at this field.
Now there might be a slight gradation there as well and there we might be talking
about a color gradation and a value gradation. And we might say that in our particular field
it’s generally similar enough to group together as a mass,
but maybe there's a general color and value gradation going from the foreground
to the background. Okay, so another gradation.
And we might see the same thing here, another gradation.
So it's still a mass, it’s still all holding together.
But now there's a slight gradation there.
Now I said at the beginning this is all types of grass and flowers and all
kinds of things going on here.
I want to start to introduce some of that variety and
I want to do it without breaking the mass apart.
So I can start to introduce some of that
variety of color and value so I might start to think about little flowers
here and there, I might think about some accents. But anything that I add to this
mass, these are just embellishments to the mass or variety.
I want to make sure that they don't start to break the mass apart.
So far it's holding together.
These are just embellishments. There might be a few yellow flowers here and there.
Let’s say. But I'm standing back and I'm saying okay it’s still holding together as a mass.
If I start to make too many accents and too many details and get too much
variety both color and value,
then the mass will start to break apart or this mass will start to become part
of another mass. So, let's see what happens when I start breaking the mass apart a
little bit. And this is often what people do when they begin to paint.
They start seeing lots of detail in any given area.
So in this one - they look in this one area and they see lots of variation,
color, and value. And start putting that color and value variation in there,
start seeing very light things, very dark things
and pretty soon the mass starts to break apart
and the picture starts no longer to become this
this ensemble of simplified masses but it becomes sort of mixed up.
We don't know any more.
We see part of this mass is now down here and part of the sky value
is now down here. And it starts to break apart.
So there's a certain point where the mass no longer holds together.
So you want variety, but not too much variety
And the key really is to find the interesting shape of the mass.
A characteristic edge or shape of the mass. And you might work on that for a long
time. And to find the relationship between the color and value of say this mass to
this mass. Let's look at a little bit of edge variety in a mass. So, so
far I've just almost angularly divided these masses.
You can do it however
you want. You can - you can make the edge. Some people like to blur this
edge. Some people like to start cutting into that mass little sky holes, for example here,
to vary this sedge, and some people actually like to leave it
crisp like that. So there's a lot of edge variation
and lots of ways of interpreting where one mass starts and the other begins.
But I think I'm going to stop there.
That's the idea of masses.
It's a difficult concept to understand and it's a very difficult concept to do in a
painting. So let's now take a look at some paintings and see if we can identify
some of the masses.
We're going to look at a little bit of massing and how artists of the
past have used massing and just further explanation of what is a mass and a
couple different types of masses.
So let's look first at this painting by Isaac Levitan.
The one thing you notice when you see Levitan’s work
is that often his paintings are very simply massed and I think that really helped, that
really is what makes them beautiful.
It’s their simplicity. It's the beautiful arrangement of simple masses.
So let's just take a look at what I mean by that here.
So let's just look at different masses.
I'm just going to trace around
one of the masses And right now this is the - I’m tracing around
a mass that is - this is the tree, the yellow golden leaves
mass. Just going to take a look at, just identify what it is.
It's pretty easy in his paintings to identify a mass because he's simplified them
so well and distinguish them so well from other masses.
So there we have the shape of that mess and you can see it's
an interesting shape.
There's another very very similar
tree and similar color that could be also also be considered part of that mass.
It's just in a different part of the painting.
Let’s identify a few other masses.
Okay, let's look at this mass.
It's again just an interesting shape
of this this kind of brownish grass.
And again, we're just thinking of these masses as sort of two-dimensional puzzle pieces.
And I just want to just want to show that they are just as interesting
shapes when you start to isolate them.
And they're all different shapes.
So a good painter will look for things that are all slightly different sizes and shapes.
So you can see in this painting
there are no repeated sizes,
there are no repeated shapes.
So let's look at another one.
We can see this very narrow mass of the back hill or sorry the back trees.
And then being interrupted by this tree.
So there's part of it.
And it picks up again here.
And then we see little bits of it through the trees here.
So it’s broken up by things in the foreground,
but it's one mess all the way through there.
And we can just compare the size of and shape of that Mass to
other masses. So we've got this very narrow one.
Long and narrow mass. Let’s look at another one.
We've got another mass back here.
That's very another horizontal shape,
but this time very small,
not as long. And so these are the different masses.
It's a fairly simple painting but that's part of its beauty.
Big sky mass. Another interesting shape, another mass.
This could be the path.
That's its own little mass.
And there's another similar colored object or colored mass right here.
So you have those two shapes sort of forming their own mass and that
part of the picture. But it's a very simply conceived painting and there may be
just a few big masses.
There's the - here we have one the sky, two the grass,
three - this is all the same mass -
it’s a three, this is the lake it could be a four.
This brownish reddish stuff could all be considered part of the same mass
really. And you can see there's maybe six or possibly with a few dark accents
probably 7 masses in the entire picture.
and within each of these masses you have a little bit of variation.
So within this this mass here we have some accents here and here, especially coming towards
the viewer and foreground. A little bit of a gradation in the sky from top to
bottom, some variation in the lake with little waves picked out a little darker bits
for waves. But with all this variation the mass always holds together as a unit.
And that's what makes an artist like Levitan so brilliant,
you could you could simply conceive a picture like this until about 7 masses.
So let’s look at another image here by Isaac Levitan.
I can probably start to see now
another very, in a way very simply massed picture and a picture that starts to - although
it's very simply massed, it gives the impression of lots of detail and lots of things
going on but the beauty of the picture really comes from the design of these big
masses and the way that he simplified them.
Let's just take a look again at what is a mess here.
We could categorize all of these clouds as one big
mass. One big cloud mass.
Maybe with a few little clouds and again the design of this shape,
this shape here against this shape.
So looking at the design of this shape, how it locks into this shape.
And we just - we can see how interesting that shape is and how it it's
not repetitive. It's varied.
Some places it's very sharp and distinct from the lighter sky behind it.
In other places it gets a little bit lost.
For example here it starts getting a little bit lost.
The edge of the cloud starts to kind of blur into the edge of the sky
behind it. Here it's very sharp.
It's very distinct. We've got another huge, huge mass in this picture.
It's the water. And here is an intricate shape.
Intricate shapes always pull your attention to them.
So one of the reasons your eye goes right to the church is because there's a
very intricate shape here. And I might just use smaller brush for that.
So we’ve got the edge of the water
mass. We can see it as it comes up to the interest of the painting,
the shape down here in this area,
it's not very interesting yet, it’s
not very intricate. As we get up closer
to where your eye goes in the picture, the shape starts to become more and more
interesting and more intricate. And I'm just tracing now the - I'm thinking about the shape of
the water, but it's actually creating the shape
now of the church and again a little bit of a different edge going on here.
And a few details here.
But what we're really considering is this big
shape of the water. So this is all one mass.
So this is a little piece that's not part of the water mess.
So let's just look, now this whole thing is the water
mass. It's all extremely. extremely similar in tone and value. And what varies is the edge
and the shape vary a lot.
So crisp edges here, intricate shapes here. As you go into the background
the shapes become a lot less interesting.
So let's just identify a few other masses in this picture.
And there's not very many to identify really.
Just count them. We’ve got one the water, two maybe the clouds, three the sky behind
the clouds. This foreground right here,
This could be a fourth
mass. All the darks running through out here link up and become
another mass. So all of these are linking together to form a fifth
mass. And we have maybe another mass which would be the back,
the land. So four, five, six, this could be a part of that six, and seven.
So you could say that this whole - this entire painting is composed of seven masses.
On a very big scale it’s got seven
masses and then there's variation within the mass.
Just a few more things
I want to point out about this this Levitan picture.
Again, all the sizes of the masses are different.
So we talked about that foreground mass.
That's one of the, I would say medium-sized, masses.
That’s this one here. We have this really small mass.
This could be considered a mass.
It’s part of the roof that you can see.
It's very small and very intricate
mass. It’s two parts. One part here, one part here. The giant, huge cloud
mass. And so you can start to see that they're all different sizes and shapes.
So not only are there very few masses but they're all different.
I think that's one of the things that makes Isaac Levitan’s paintings very
memorable and very beautiful. Let’s look at another image.
Okay, sometimes it's not so apparent when you're outside
what is a mass and what isn't and how can you
group things similarly. Here's an instance
where we have - we have some masses that might be
might be easy to identify. For example.
the sky. Pretty easy to identify right here.
This is where the sky
mass, if you were to draw a line around it,
it would be fairly easy.
However, when you're outside and you start running into things like trees it becomes, especially in
the foreground, it becomes difficult to interpret certain masses.
We have just about as much Sky showing as there are leaves showing.
And so it's hard to interpret that as either as one or the other and so in
this case the artist, Monet in this case, he actually made what's called a transparent mass.
And the transparent mass is exactly this.
It’s a mass
that's not quite sky and
it's not quite leaves.
And actually we can see when he was painting this mass,
he used probably four colors.
He used a sky color,
he used a a blue, a dark blue, for some of the leaves
that are against the sky
and in shadow. Then he used a green color for the leaves that were in the
And he used a dark, almost like a black,
for the another version of leaves and shadow.
So there's a mass
now that's made up of those four elements.
more or less equally interspersed in here and they create what's called
a transparent mask. So we can see there's actually two in this painting.
Okay this also could be considered a transparent
mass. And how these are interpreted is all up to the artist.
So one artist like Monet might interpret this in a certain way and he took the
strategy of number one identifying it as a mass,
so he identified this all is as one mass, all of this stuff,
which is the first step to interpretation.
And then the way he chose to represent that mass was these four elements all mixing
together. Actually just laid on separately and coming together to form this mass.
another artist might have - might have treated that differently.
They might have actually said okay,
there's - there are some sky - there is some sky coming through but mostly it's leaves.
And just simply painted all his leaves or they could have
mixed up a color that was somewhere in between sky and leaves
and treated it more like a a normal mass
that's just basically one general color.
So that's an example of a transparent
mass. Let’s pull up this image by one of my favorite painters Arthur Streeton.
Another great example of very simple massing. So there are maybe - we got a sky
mass. Kind of road light mass down here in the corner.
We've got a sort of grass
mass and then some tree in sunlight and tree in shadow. And there's roughly five
masses in this painting. So it's really a very simply conceived painting
again. And so far most of the things we've looked at
are pretty straightforward in the sense that each object more or less tends to be its
own mass. So in this case the road is a mass to another object like the
grass is a mass. Let's look in the example now of where an artist
took several objects or several things and kind of group them all into one giant mass
or some smaller masses. So so far we've looked at these kind of obvious masses.
Let's look at another painting by Monet. So the untrained
person or the painter will say - well they will look at this painting and they will say
yeah, that painting has got so much stuff going on there.
It's got a building back here,
it's got another building. There's windows, there must be hundreds of windows.
There's hundreds and hundreds of people down here,
there's these two guys here looking out the window.
There's trees everywhere. There's hundreds of branches.
There's so much stuff going on.
But the painter
looks at this painting or the artist.
looks at this painting and they say actually this is a brilliant picture
and it's brilliant because those are two really interesting masses
next to each other. And so let me just try to explain a little bit better what
I mean by that, so I'm going to try to explain
how somebody can - how a painter can see this picture.
So instead of seeing all these separate objects,
we're going to see how we can combine elements of lots of different objects to make
a new a new thing,
which is a mass. And I’m gonna use the paintbrush for that, to explain that.
And break it down into masses and I'll try to explain a little bit about what's
going on in this picture.
Okay, so let's take a look at this painting.
Add I want to just break it down to its simplest elements
and explain a little bit.
So like I I was saying.
to the untrained person or the non painter
they might look at this painting and see all kinds of things going on.
They see - they look back here and they see a building
with a roof and I still see the building coming down here and I see lots
of windows. And I see some trees coming up now.
I've got trunks, these tree trunks here,
more trees, lots of trees all along the road.
They see lots of people,
people everywhere. They say more trees in the corner over here,
hey see there's cars. They see trees.
they see people, they see buildings, rooftops,
windows, chimneys, distant city. They see these these two guys here poking their heads out the
window. They see shops and cars everywhere
and it just looks like there's so much going on this painting and there
and there is but part of the beauty of this painting is that it's simply divided
into two or maybe three
big masses. The big - if we could just split this painting into two masses
we would conceive of it like this.
We would group all of these things, start grouping some things together.
So there's a foreground shadow
that starts to link a lot of these objects.
So it links all the people and the part of the street
with this tree and then it links
more of the street and a lot of these shop fronts
and some of the cars. And we start to see that these are not separate objects.
They are actually all part of one big mass.
And that's the genius of this picture.
That's how the artist took all of these elements and enjoying them into
one big mass or in this case two masses.
And in this case we have sort of a bluish, a dark bluish grayish mass and a
lighter kind of orange grey
mass. And so there’s one, more or less, one big
dark shape and one big light shape and then within the light shape,
there are few dark shapes
and within the dark shape
there are a few light shapes.
And there are also a few gradations going on in the mass.
in the masses and then of course,
there are the embellishments oe the details that go on top of the masses.
So let's just take a look at how that might be conceived of.
Or how you can think about this painting
as a painter. So let's go ahead and paint the two big masses and I
might even say three masses. This picture I can take the sky as
separate mass. So I’ve got sky,
all the things in light and all the things in shadow.
So let’s just mix-up, in this case
I'll mix up kind of a gradation.
Well, maybe not. Maybe I'll more or less paint it flat.
So I've got a a bluish gray that I’ll use to paint this whole mass.
And again, I'm painting - it's the tree, the road,
people, everything is falling into this one
mass. And the general color of the mass is this kind of bluish gray.
And the general color of the other mass is maybe I kind of an
orange, a light orange gray. Let’s mix that up.
So this might have been, well
this is the design concept for this picture, these two masses,
two interlocking masses. And we might even be able to find a third mass.
Let's call this guy a third
mass. So just trying to make the point that it's not always -
not always is - are separate objects always
their own mass, you can
combine objects and anything that has similar color and value can be combined into a single
mass idea. Okay, so as a big design we can see what's going on in
the picture now. We have three big masses.
And again, it's interesting to note that they’re different sizes.
So we got this huge orangish gray
mass. And then smaller than that mass,
we have this dark grey
mass. And then another third mass even smaller.
I've got three big masses.
They're all different sizes, interesting shapes are all composed - they’re composed of various object so this
mass is composed of trees, buildings, people, streets,
sll those elements combined into one
mass. Okay, let's look at how you can maybe start to see gradations within a mss.
So now we're talking about variation within a mass.
And I will just take the dark gray mass and
start adding a gradation to it going back - as it goes back into space it's going to
become a little bit lighter and blueer back here.
And as it comes forward in general,
it'll become slightly more yellow orange in general tone.
So there's a gradation within the mass, a color gradation here.
You’ll probably see the same thing going on in the big sunlight mass here,
you probably a color gradation as you get back here probably getting grayer,
bluer. And more oranges and reds as you come forward.
So big, big masses. Now on top of it these masses we might be able to
find even a fourth mass,
let's say. We could say all of the similar darks could be a fourth
mass. So this could be part of our fourth mass, we got some some darks
here, I got a nice intricate shape here.
And then you got all the people down on the street and some of them
are grouped together and some of them are individual and they can be thought of as
a mass. That's just broken mass on top of this other mass.
So they're all kind of in the same category.
They're all in that sort of this darker
shadow mass. So now we got kind of four categories.
And there's lots of people down there and some of them are
grouped and some of them are individual and there's also cars and they could be sort
of all thought of as the same general tone or mass.
And there's some of these things spilling out into the big orange
mass. And so the shape starts to become more intricate
and more varied. So we're just adding lots of variation now.
But never losing sight of the fact that they're two big masses.
Or I guess three. Two, three, four, however you want to conceive it.
I would say in the big
there's only two masses in this painting.
And there's a lot - there’s seemingly a lot of detail in this painting but
the big massed never -
they never break apart. They never -
the artist never loses sight of that the bigger design concept,
even when putting in more and more detail. And so we can go on suggesting more
and more detail. All these little bits of darker blue things out here.
But still that idea of the masses holding together.
And similarly, it doesn't matter how many
windows and roofs you start to suggest because they're all grouped into that mass.
So there might be lots of little windows.
Suggested some of them might be painted in and others might just be suggestions.
And basically embellishments in the mass.
These are just details. Lots of little details all over actually.
And then we get a little bit of color variation.
There's a sort of red running throughout this painting.
So so far we've got the big design is two bluish gray masses against a orangish
gray mass. And there’s a few reds running throughout this picture.
So a few orangish reds
just placed in here and there's some in the shadow as well.
Those little reds. Some of them you look at the painting and it doesn't even - these marks
don't even seem to make sense,
but you'll notice that the deeper, more intense reds are in the foreground and then
they get smaller and less intense as they go into the background.
So these are just - this is their own group.
I guess have a res.
Or they could just be looked at is as accents on top of the main masses.
So little color accents within a mass
I guess they could be considered.
But that is how a painter might start to look at a picture.
And might start to take all of these elements and group them into interesting masses.
So, I hope that that clarifies a little bit what a mass is.
It's not always obvious. Sometimes it literally is the tree is its own mass, the sky that's it’s own
mess but not always and in this case you have almost an abstract
design and abstract painting.
On this level is what you see
when you are in the museum and you see it from two rooms away.
You see this interesting design
and that's something to keep in mind when you're massing things together when you're when you're
massing things together so you can see if you can join like join separate objects that
are similar in value and color and you come up with interesting shapes and you can
start to make it a really interesting picture.
Let’s look at another painting
and let's look at masses that have a little bit more variety in them.
So this painting, another painting by Monet,
we have some masses that that are pretty easy to identify.
We have this big - the big sky mass here.
And there's a gradation.
There's a color gradation. So violet gray going up to a more yellowy green
going up to a blue.
And this mass is almost starts to - we could almost say that this mass is a
continuation of the sea. So we could almost say that this is all one mass with
a gradation. Going from darkest -
going from dark to that light and then back slightly darker again.
And that mass, this sky mass, has almost no variety in it.
In the sea we start to see more variety, we start to see more
little pieces coming together to make up this mass.
In the foreground we might consider all of this,
all of this one mass.
And within it lots of - there's lots of variety.
So this one big mass is made up of lots of pieces of different color and
different values all coming together to form one
mass. Let's compare that to a few other masses.
So we have another bit of ground here.
We have a middle ground.
And again an interesting shape.
We have a big middle-ground
mass. Lots of variety, lots of little spots of green, orange, gray, little spots of blue
and lots of color variation and value variation. Let’s just compare that now to the foreground
mass. And compare the different levels of variety that we have.
So when we look at the foreground mass, this thing,
and compare it to the middle ground mass,
we see a huge difference in the amount of variety.
So in the foreground lots and lots of variety.
Middle ground lots of variety but not as much as the foreground.
And of course the sky we've already said has the least variation.
So in this one picture,
there's lots of different levels of variety or detail or embellishment within any
Free to try
1. Overview of Masses1m 53sNow playing...
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2. How to Separate Masses by Color and Value25m 20s
3. How to Paint Gradations and Variety within a Mass9m 48s
4. Analysis of Mass in Master Paintings23m 5s
5. Monet Broken Down into Masses18m 15s
6. Analysis of Variety within a Mass3m 45s