- Lesson Details
In this video lessons world-renowned painter Steve Huston will teach you a structural approach to painting the landscape. Steve will cover the overall construction of elements within your piece as well as gradation, foreground versus background, shape, positive and negative space and the Three Value System.
- Sharpie Marker
- Carbothello Pencil – Burnt Umber
- White Chalk
- Conté Crayon
- Alphacolor Char-Kole Squares
video lesson, world renowned painter Steve Huston will teach you a
structural approach to painting the landscape. Steve will cover the
overall construction of elements within your piece as well as gradation,
foreground versus background, shape, positive and negative
space, and the Three Value System. You will learn how to set up and prepare
your landscape project, whether you're working in oils, pencils, or even
We're going to spend quite a few hours talking about landscapes and try and
break it down into some eventually fairly sophisticated ideas, but we're
going to start simply of course, to get our feet wet and get our ideas
down on what we're really trying to do.
There's three basic genres art.
There's figurative painting, there is landscape painting,
and there's still life painting.
And each has sub genres.
For example, figurative painting can have historical painting,
religious portraiture, genres like country scenes, city scenes, worker
series, boxing series sports.
Paintings like I do.
There's a, there's a ton of them in landscape.
We're going to break it down.
There's also a ton of them.
We're going to break it down as simply as we can here to just make life easier.
And as again, I always give this disclaimer in my lectures when I define
something, it's not a, it doesn't hold up to critical review necessarily.
I defined things just to make things easier on myself as I try
to approach my art and my craft.
And so in landscapes, I'm gonna break it down into three basic genres, sub-genres.
It'll be nature, the nature genre, that would be just strictly a landscape
with trees in a field or a cityscape or a cloud-scape, just sky and clouds.
Those types of things, or it's strictly nature.
No, no, no hint of man.
The next I'm calling pastoral and that would be the landscape
with a hint with just a bit of of man or technology in there.
So it might be a, a pastoral scene of a field treeline and you see the city
behind the trees in the distance, or you see that pasture and there's a cow
on a farm or farmer in the field, or there's a little cabin in the woods.
Any of those types of things, you get the idea, a little house in the country.
And then the last would be city scapes, architectural.
I'm going to call them anything that has it's mainly or all architecture.
So New York City skyline, the country street that you're walking down at
one point perspective and you see a little bit of landscape off in the
distance, those types of things.
So those are our three basic systems we're going to work with, three basic genres.
Nature, pastoral and architectural.
We're going to start with nature first and I would refer you as, as you get
into the architectural ideas, refer to the perspective classes, excellent
perspective classes we have in other
- with other instructors in other sections of our website here.
And you get a lot of good basic stuff.
We'll talk about a little bit of it, but you can get in depth with that.
So nature, pastoral, architectural.
Now why landscapes?
Why art in general?
When I look at art, when I think about art, I'm just thinking about art as an
idea, art is an idea, makes life easy and I'll show you why in a couple of
minutes here, and an artist who is just someone who has an idea about the world,
And so when we look at a landscape, it can just be a beautiful crafted piece
of work, a beautiful oil painting and beautiful charcoal and an ink sketch,
whatever it is same with all the other major genres, figurative, and still life.
They have just beautiful potential for great lovely pictures or challenging,
interesting pictures, whatever adjective you want to stick in there.
But why would we do landscapes in particular?
Well, in general, if you look at movies, movies is a great place to
look to learn about our art form, as painters, as draftsman, as sculptors,
looking at the plastic arts and the graphic arts, look to film.
And the reason I look at film, use a lot of film examples is because usually
we artists and certainly our audience is much more aware of the film art
form than they are of the painting.
Art form film came entirely out of the painting genre, you know, all it added was
editing, movement and sound to it, but all the visuals are taken exactly out of the
painter's handbook, the great artists of the past.
And so we look at film oftentimes we can see great examples of that.
And we were, of course, we'll look at some lovely paintings too, but in
film you can see very clearly if you pay attention that the landscape, the
setting, whether it's the city say it's a detective in the city in a film noir
piece of work or a country scene or an old mansion on a stormy night for
a monster, the thriller, any of those things, the landscape is a reflection
of the character, it's a hero usually, but it might be the society also.
And so when we look at a science fiction or fantasy, any of those
things, but any of the naturalistic films too, we will find that the city
is a reflection of the character.
The city is a reflection of the character.
And that is a great place to be in our landscapes as landscape painters, the
great landscape painters really had the same thought in mind is that that
landscape, the, the lilies in a Monet or a, whatever it is, a Barbizon, a
lovely land - disappearing landscapes.
So the romantic period here with Bierstadt and Cole and such.
Capturing the essence of that vanishing wild or man's encroachment on it, or the
majesty of that is life and the small man within that big world, all those kinds
of things, the landscape ends up becoming a symbol and idea of what the world
is in relationship to the human being.
And so landscape as an art form is a metaphor.
It's a metaphor that's saying something about us and that's
why I argue why we looked at art.
It has lovely craftsmanship oftentimes, but not always.
You go to any great museum in the world and you'll find craftsmanship
that's pretty God awful in terms of technical facility, you could
do it, your 10 year old could do
it or better oftentimes, but it's the idea underneath that's valuable
or not valuable if you're, if that metaphor is not speaking to you.
So art can be in any style, any degree of craftsmanship, but underneath
all the really terrific art and even most of the mediocre art,
frankly, is that underlying idea.
Why am I painting this picture?
Why am I drawn to that beach to paint?
And that beach scene to present in a frame in a gallery for my audience,
it's usually because it speaks to something that's underneath the surface
in film and the written film in the storyline, that's called subtext.
The subtext is what's underneath the words.
So if the character looks at her, a lover, who's just treated
her poorly and says fine.
She doesn't mean that's absolutely great.
She means not fine at all.
She means you dirty son of a gun.
What did you do to me?
And so in terrific writing, there's always a subtext underneath the
words is something else going on, because that is our experience.
When we're talking to a little child and say, Oh, that drawing's lovely, honey.
We're not really thinking it's a masterpiece, even though we might present
that idea to the child to encourage them.
But we're saying, we love you, we're saying that we connect you.
We appreciate the effort or it's absolutely adorable.
It has a beautiful energy of five-year-olds energy that I wish I had
in my 30, 40, 50 year old painting style.
So quite often, almost always when we're speaking, when we're living
our lives, there's other things under the surface that we don't
talk about, can't talk about, or aren't even aware about ourselves.
That's called subtext.
And so in terrific art, I want you to look for it now in your favorite artists.
And I want you to think about it for your own art.
In great art there is a subtext, there is something else underneath.
There's a metaphor.
In other words when you paint something, it's an excuse to
get out some fundamental idea.
And in my, all my lectures, I'll speak to these ideas and we'll do it.
We'll talk a little bit more about that as we go on the landscape, but I think
we'll stop on that point right there.
So landscapes are really an expression of the human being in that environment,
or the environment might actually be a symbol for the human being itself.
It might be that our life is a lovely, beautiful pastoral setting, or we wish
it were, our life is a beautiful sunset, we wish it were, that was kind of things.
Or life is a grubby old set of trash cans in an alley.
And in the hard-boiled city.
So that's that.
Landscape as an idea, let's put that down.
This is going to get us through a lot of stuff.
This idea idea, I guess I can say.
So what we need to do then is breakdown that landscape into some
useful craft ideas and that's where we're going to start now, we're going
to start looking at the drawing.
So the basic drawing landscape, and I know landscape painters, oftentimes not
loving it, not in love with drawing.
Drawing can be hard.
Didn't have that beautiful color.
Didn't have those rich juicy strokes that you can put in there.
It's a little drier, little more austere for the eye, have a real
lush painter, a painter's painter type that a lot of you probably are.
And it's darn intimidating because it's hard.
So we're going to break it down just very simply so that we have some tools of the
trade and you can jump past that right
to the color and the lush painting.
But I hope you don't.
Hope you stick with us.
And work through some of these basic ideas because they're going
to make the painting easier to do.
If you have a couple of basic drawing ideas and just a couple ideas, I'm
not going to give you a lot of stuff.
Go to my drawing lectures, get beat over the head with this stuff.
I'm just going to give you a few simple ideas to work with at
least in the beginning, it's going to help tremendously I think.
So let's start with our drawing.
Let's take a break here, come on back and I'll start sketching out some drawing
ideas, some design and composition ideas.
And then we'll jump into the painting in the, in a further lecture.
Let's talk about landscape once more.
And the drawing of landscape, how to draw these pesky things, the trees,
the rocks, all that kind of stuff.
This clouds in the sky.
Well to do that, we need to talk about drawing as an idea.
And actually two ideas is, again, refer to my drawing courses.
There's quite a few and more coming all the time.
That'll go through this stuff in great, great detail.
You don't need that for now.
And you may never need it as a landscape painter, but we're going
to talk in just a moment about it.
We'll come back to it later in the context of landscape in later lectures
where we'll delve into it more deeply.
But for now, we're going to talk, break it down into this simple ideas.
Art is an idea.
An artist is someone who has an idea about the world.
A landscape painter is going to have two ideas about the world
for the moment as the draftsman, the draftsman of landscapes.
And those are, we want to understand the parts and we want to
understand how those parts connect.
The connection between the parts.
In drawing we call the parts, the structure.
And I don't care if you know the terms, but we need to start somewhere on this
so we can work through it together.
The connection we call the gesture, the structure and the gesture.
Structure is seeing the world as basic simple shapes.
That's where we're going to start.
The gesture is seeing how those pieces connect.
What we find when we delve into this idea, or these two ideas is
gesture's by far the most difficult.
That's unfortunate because it's also the most important.
Now in landscape the gesture, the connection, is way easier than the figure.
That's the good news.
If you're drawing a human form or an animal form, getting the gesture and
the structure working together in those figures is extremely difficult
and can take a lifetime to master in a lifetime to miss out, not quite master.
In landscape it's easier.
So that's the good news.
Now what I'm going to suggest then is the gesture.
Is always going to be a long axis,
curved line, long axis curved line.
What that means is if you look at my limb here off my trunk,
the limb is long in length.
If we look down the long length of the limb, I should say, we'll see it's curved.
It has a curved natural flow to it.
We call that the gesture.
You look at the limbs of the trees.
They will be curved as well, curved as well.
The trunk may be stiffened straight.
If it's a, a redwood say, or it might be very curved and
flow around all over the place.
If it's something else that cotton wood or Willow or an old Oak tree
may well curve a little or a lot.
When we look at that long axis, we want to see if it's curved or not.
And here's the secret.
Anytime we draw anything that's natural, that's organic, remember
we're drawing nature here.
alive in any sense
it's gonna have, usually, a curved, long axis to it.
Not every time, but most of the time. So when we draw the figure we're gonna
see this long axis curve
and then as we draw each part we'll see the many axis
all with long axis curves. You can see the hands, the body
flowing through, all that kinda good stuff. So when we look at trees,
clouds, the natural rolling landscape of the
pasture or the hills, the mountain line, the crevices coming down
the mountain, the river going back into the valley, all those things,
water, clouds, even fire has that same organic
quality if you're doing a volcano that's erupting or a forest fire, something
they're all gonna have the fluid life line you can call it.
The gesture line is also the life line.
It's gonna bring your artwork
alive. You're trying to paint nature, you're trying to paint life
you're trying to paint this glory of organic forms.
If you don't get that curvature in there you're gonna lose it.
It's gonna become stiff and still. But now if you have a
modern design, say a Mondrian, he took all of those
curved limbs and made them like a maze, jigsaw puzzle,
maze kind of thing. All straight, right angle corners, straight lines,
and went exactly in the opposite for a modern,
at that point, a modern effect. So you can always go against the grain on these things
We want then our gesture, the long axis of whatever
we draw to be curved.
Curved line. Assume it's curved. If it's straight
be surprised and make it straight. But make it curved if you can. So when I draw that
and the ground.
Can you see the fluid quality here? And maybe
the cast shadow going off into
the field behind -
kinda cheat on the lighting -and the limbs
and the foliage.
You can see how it
starts to go off the page there. You can see how it starts
to feel life like even though it's rather
crudely done, notice that every mark I made was
a fluid, curved line. The reason
life is fluid, the main reason for it, is
that life, true life, true organic, living forms,
are mainly water. And so they have that
fluid quality to them. Notice the
contour of my hand, we'd see the same thing with a contour
of the limbs and trunk
and the roots. Look at that flow. That lovely
organic, fluid, wobbling, movement.
Notice when I do that curve
I don't want to do this.
Because those curves are gonna cancel out as a straight line. They're visually
going in the same straight direction. We want them to go
in a curved direction. So whatever the
wobbles do, the overall track of that form
is curved. The overall
tracking of it is curved. That's what we want. Look at that
lovely curve there. Look at that lovely curve there.
Here is the foliage above let's say. And then the little things
are curved too. Look at the - I'm not drawing all the leaves, I'm drawing the
mass canopy of leave structures. Just like I wouldn't
draw all the hairs on my head, I would draw
the overall shape of the hair.
So we're looking for those masses to separate out that.
That's what we're after.
That curvature. So when we draw things, we want to
make sure the long axis, as we go from top to bottom or left to
right, depending on how its oriented, the ground is left to right,
we can go off this way. The tree is top to bottom,
we're gonna go off this way and hopefully with the curve. That's gonna make it seem
Let's do that. Let's do that. So maybe a
on a horizon. Maybe this is my
little painting. There's a
landscape in front.
Little tree and bush grouping
And let's say
drops off this way. And we see
the landscape, maybe there's a moon rise. Maybe it's a nighttime scene
in here. You can see how -
See how that's
moving on a curve. And then as we saw here
this is going that way, or wobbling that way, whichever
way you wanna do it. But all the wobbles are
incidental. Exactly what I do here to a cloud, whether I make that little
lump bigger or smaller doesn't matter so much. But the overall
gesture of it, the overall flow down from top to
bottom and from left to right is curved. And the more curved we make it
the more lovely it will be.
If there is a hill - a set of hills here
they're gonna have that flow. We're gonna look for that long axis
movement. That's gesture. That's all we need to know about gesture. As you draw
something, try and make
its axis curved somehow.
Even this tone here is
curving that way. Like so.
Do that, your paintings are gonna be much more lovely
it's just as easy to draw a curved, fluid shape
as it is to draw a stiff shape. In fact if you prefer
to draw things stiff and straight, like a woodcarver, you could chisel
these things out like this.
And work it out. Absolutely fine. We still have that overall
curve. Just like the wood carver at the end we would round the
corners or we would keep it more chiseled for a more personal
style. But we'd still have the underlying, fluid, graceful
organic quality. That's gesture. Let's talk
Structure are the basic parts.
Typically the three dimensional parts
but they don't have to be. They could be two dimensional. And let's
just talk about them as two dimensional parts.
They have a certain length and width to them.
And we can break them down as circles
or eggs, boxes
or squares, or rectangles or cones.
Tubes, cones are really
just tapering tubes.
So squares and rectangles, tubes and cones, eggs
and balls. Those are our basic architectural shapes.
Now let's take a look at a
tree. A tree has a long
fluid axis we said. It curves.
If we decided to make the trunk a simple shape we could make it
a tube. We'll just make it a curved
slightly tapering tube. Let me
shade it so you can see it.
The bottom ground
that it sits on could be a box.
Let's put in the frame, there's a little box. But it could be
slightly curved box.
I'm putting value here so you can see it more clearly on camera. We'll
talk about value in a little bit because it's gonna be important for us. Our
colors won't work well if our values don't work well. But we're just
using it now so you can see on camera. And then again as
I've done before, the limbs
belong too. So notice that most or all
of the tree can be
dealt with as tubes or tapering tubes.
And that works quite nicely. If we curve those
tubes it looks like a very sophisticated, or begins
to look like a very sophisticated drawing when it's really
quite simple ideas. Just a tube that wobbles. It
curves off axis. With a little bit of practice you can
master that. And in fact if you're really interested in mastering the
drawing aspect of your landscape
paintings, start drawing, keeping a little sketchbook of simple shapes.
And sketch them out. Look at the trees out your window, a leaf that's fallen
at your feet and sketch it a simple shape. Notice where the base of the
branch comes in in
perspective into the tree we get that
circular knot. In fact right here let's say there's a
limb that was cut off or broken off. And so we have a knot hole
or maybe there's a little critter living in there or something.
Circles and eggs. So we can see how simple.
We could do the bark
as little box shapes. Like
this. Or some other conception. So notice
by picking out we could use the leaves
triangular tube ideas.
Notice how picking out simple
shapes I can break this down into a
scene pretty quickly. Here's the mountains behind, they'll just be
tubular triangles. Mountain range here.
The clouds will be the egg and ball shapes that we talked about
before. Then we give little values
to this so you can see it in the sky
behind. Maybe it's lost in the foliage above.
It can even be broken, ragged shapes that are
suggestive of a shape without having to
actually render the shape. Just broken
strokes. But I'm still thinking in terms of grouping
and massing and designing. And so that is all drawing ideas.
So there's the simple ideas. And if
this was a field and there were a little hay bale
out there then there's all the sudden the two dimensional ideas
maybe need to become three dimensional ideas and we start dealing with
boxes. And the box is showing off two sides probably
and a little bit of the top. And each side might
catch a different value. And then it might catch
a little square shape onto the ground here.
And you can see how quickly we can place these. And here's another hay bale
that's in perspective
father away from us, going back.
Start to plot it out. Simple, basic structure.
SImple, basic architecture. Simple
basic parts. They can be flat little parts/ The advantage
of making them nice and flat - even this little
fellow here was drawn with three flat
sides of a box. They were just obtuse.
They weren't square
right angles to each other they were obtuse.
a simple shape, I can plug any color I want into these
shapes. Here is the shadow
tree casting the shade
through its canopy let's say.
And now I can plug in values and colors into
each of these shapes and have the great beginnings of
a suggested painting or a little sketch or a loose
finish and it can be lovely and framable and we're gonna
go through several little studies showing how to do just that.
So notice, even if I put in some brush strokes in here,
or hatched strokes
from my pencil medium, my little
sharpie in this case, I'll give them a little bit of curve so they feel like they
roll over the land and it adds to that organic.
Notice how pleasing that is. Think of that as a lazy
ride down the river. How pleasant it is, it's not
jumbled and bumpy and it feels much more
inviting. Alright so we
have a little bit of info on our
drawing. Basic structure, the parts placed
in two dimensional position, and the gesture. Those
parts connecting together to other parts. The connectivity,
relationship. And notice how important that relationship is. Here
is a composition.
And when I do little sketches of little landscapes
I make a little frame to put it in. That frame for the artist is a
window into a world. This is a window into my world, it's gonna have certain
rules that are particular to my world. Those
rules we'll call my style. And so maybe
in my world everything that's
close to the viewer gets very, very
So it's the edge of a
forest grove let's say, with trees and bushes creating this shape.
And everything that's
in the middle part of space
gets middle value. And everything that's
far away gets very light
in value. And so all the sudden we now have a little -
a little world that has its own logic. And if I
do things peculiar to anybody else - or peculiar
to myself and not the same as anybody else - we see that as a style.
And we can go to our favorite artists and see they're style - Monet, Manet,
Cecily, Barbizon groups, Romantic
painters, that kind of stuff. And we create a certain
logic there. So I want to create a frame. Now let's look at that gesture
again, but let's look at it in composition.
In composition. The gesture
can be how we move through the whole painting too.
So let's say that there's a babbling brook
that goes back into
And notice as it gets farther
from us, it gets smaller to our eye.
This thickness diminishes, diminishes,
diminishes, diminishes, diminishes, and eventually dissapears into the horizon
or almost dissapears into the horizon. Notice too that I made
the curves ever tighter.
as they went back. In fact I could make it exaggerated
I could make it ever more
zig zaggy. They start out as kind of wobbly
S curves and it gets - wobbly S
curves - and then it gets zig zaggy as it goes back. Compresses, tightens up.
Gets more violent in shape. And so what we can find that is
as we track along the length of something, that long axis curve, that
gesture, it'll not only take us down its own length, it'll take us through
some or all of the composition. And that's the secret of composition.
The composition is super gesture. Gesture
is the connection between the
parts. How the parts connect or the relationship -
the relationship between the
parts. And that can be the relationship of the
parts in a tree or a human figure or the parts in a
hand or the parts just in a single thumb. Or
it can be all the parts in a composition.
Grouping or several parts of the composition grouping. So every
leaf in this tree, all the trees and bushes in this grove. All
the grass on this ground have all grouped together into one
All of the drops of water in this little creek here or this
crack in the land, this fissure of lava in the
lava flow, whatever the heck it is.
All that's grouped into one idea and we're taken
from here to here.
And what we'll find as we start picking up
are details. Maybe this is an ocean scene
we're looking out of the jungle into the ocean and I dunno, maybe
that's an oil slick and there's a little oil tanker
way out here.
Notice what happens.
If we were to look at each section of this
composition, we'd find that each section is a little bit different.
In fact a landscape painter often times likes to break it
into quadrants. Into four
parts. And each part becomes an interesting little area
that should be quite different from the other three parts.
that piece. Let's break this down more graphically now. Can you see how
this bottom left piece is
very different than this upper right piece.
And this bottom right piece is very, very
different than the other two. And again this upper
right is quite different.
So we have that idea. Notice also, what tends to happen.
Look at where my
cloud bank come down and
met the ocean. And look at where the lumps
and dumps of this tree and foliage line
track, hitting, going through the zig zag.
Sometimes not exactly. Often times not
exactly, usually not exactly, but roughly we can see
how they line up in an X. This is another trick
of landscape painters,
is they'll find an X and they'll line things up
along one axis of the X. Maybe we'll have a
little treasure box here for the pirates.
Maybe it was opened up or something, empty, or who knows.
But we'll have things lining up
on this axis and lining up on that axis. And notice
that this axis is a little weaker than that axis. These line up
but they're pretty far away. They kind ghost that line.
The tanker is far away. And
we just get a little bump here. And maybe we'll add a little bit more to make
it really more solid. A little darker foliage there.
And we get a hint of that alignment. Notice what happens.
The artist is thinking, because the audience wants to do it,
they're gonna hop, skip, and jump, from detail to
detail and they want to see how things line up.
In other words, if I do that, if I do a little arrow, you're gonna
do this, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, and you're gonna try and connect it to something.
We move along this axis, even though it wobbles all over the place,
it's an axis going down this way. It happens to line up quite closely to that
meeting of cloud and see. And then it hits
some of the key points, or random points on the zig zag or comes close
to them and then down to the treasure chest that's right in the corner
or a little above the corner, a little inside the corner, wouldn't matter, takes us on through
and we feel that completion. if I were a carpenter
I would build a gate to a
fence with one or two cross
members to make it strong, so it wouldn't give
when I opened and closed and put tension on that gate. That's good
carpentry. That's good engineering, makes it stronger.
We could also make the engineering
this way. And the more
cross members up and down and left and right we do, the stronger
it would be and of course we could do both for the greatest amount of strength. So we can use a
grid system, an X system, but in one way or another
often times all these ways, you'll find that the artist has
intentionally or intuitively made things
line up on axis. This is the composition or more
properly, the design. Composition
means you've got a concept in mind. That's something we'll talk about another time.
Design means you're arranging things in a
pleasing, interesting, logical,
some kind of logical order. And this is one that's tried
and true and happens all the time. And it happens all the time
because the smart artist, the mature artist,
the experienced knows that the audience is trying to
help them with their work. If I'm a cartoonist
and I do a little dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, and put a word in there, you know
that I'm whispering or I'm thinking that word
and not saying that word. If I put a dark line around it and make a bold
type you know I'm shouting that word. You do a lot of work to help that
cartoonist get their message across. In film
we use edits, or they use edits, and they edit
cut you from one picture to the next and there's a gap
there's a space in between. You as the audience fill in that
space. As a portrait painter I might beautifully render the
lights but simplify or leave out completely - or almost completely
the shadows. Like a Rembrandt or a Caravaggio might do.
You fill in the shadows for me. The audience
is gonna fill in the gaps for the artist. If the artist gains
their confidence, does the few things that he or she is interested in doing,
well, and with a certain logic - it doesn't have to be the logic of the
real world, but a certain logic - the audience will feel
connected to that, they'll feel comfortable and confident with that and
they'll help you out. And so if I say look at that over there
you'll look over there. if I do a little mark that goes this way you'll keep going and
try and connect it. You're trying to help me out, you're trying to make it come together. Notice
what we've done. We've draw an oil slick and a
tanker and clouds and sky and foliage and treasure chest.
We've drawn a lot of parts.
A lot of pieces, a lot of structures. And they're all
separate. They're all separate.
What are we gonna do to bring them together? The artist's job is to take the separate
pieces and bring them together. In drawing we call that
gesture. In a full picture
we call that the composition. Or on a simpler level the design.
How does it all come together? As a still life painter I'm not supposed to paint
six apples and an orange even though I have to go through the craft
and mechanics of doing that. What I'm really trying to do is paint one still life.
As a story teller I'm not trying to write 54 scenes,
I'm trying to write one story. As a
musician I'm not trying to make twelve notes, I'm
trying to make one song. Dancer one dance,
one still life, one landscape. Notice the
still life. The technology and art is always taking the object and bringing
them into one idea. It's a story, a landscape, a still
life, a figurative painting. It's
not a bunch of - it's not six hundred and some odd muscles, it's one figure.
Our job is to make it come together, make all the pieces
fit, relate. The first act in doing that,
the easiest way into that for the
landscape painter, is the gesture. Finding out
how they flow together. Notice that they flow organically because
they're organic, living ideas, living objects that we're drawing.
But notice we can also bring in straight and
stiff architecture to hold it together. We can use both.
We can use the mechanics, the engineering,
the engineer in us to make it all tie together.
To give it good, sheer strength. To hold that
set of objects into one frame. And then we can use the
fluid, dancing, intuitive, artistic,
more creative side with
these fluid lines. They're harder to hold
onto mechanically. But intuitively
they make the painting lovely, they make the painting really work
usually. And so we're gonna find that in design we're gonna use straight
straights, straight lines
and curved lines to have the best
of both worlds. It's gonna have great architectural, engineered,
strength, solidity, cohesion, and yet it's all
gonna flow and be fluid as an organic
natural thing, living thing usually
should be. How do we bring those together? How do we make all those little, organic things
every leaf on the tree, every limb on the branch, ever branch on the trunk, every
tree in the forest. How do we make them all come together? We're gonna have a
greater gesture throughout. All of the leaves will flow
together, all of the cloud fluff will flow together, all of the
wandering liquid will flow together.
Or align together. That's
gonna be our pattern. So in a later lecture we're gonna come back to design
and composition and we'll look at several traditional
designs, just kind of out of the book
template designs. And then we'll get into more compositional ideas
to look at and get a little more creative and original and
all that good intuitive stuff.
Same with drawing, we'll come back a little bit later and we'll look at drawing more
carefully. We haven't really looked at the three dimensional aspect of it, the
a lot of things in drawing we would like to know about building a
landscape world, a pastoral, natural, or
architectural world. But for now we'll stop there. We'll come back again in a bit
and try on our next lecture to take a little bit
drawing some more in landscape and we're gonna look at silhouettes
and form. We need to figure out how to get that three dimensional stuff
working on some basic level for our shapes whether they're rock
formations, cliffs, mountains, hay bales, trees, that kinda
stuff. And even clouds. They need to have volume and we need to understand how to do that.
But first I want to talk about silhouette because that's a two dimensional
idea of it. We touched on it without really going through
the clear idea of it or dealing with the term of it.
Silhouette is creating a shape
that's a positive shape against a
negative background. And so if I draw
all in shadow
that's a silhouette. If I were to draw the egg and
the cast shadow of the egg on whatever surface, let's say a
table top. That's all a silhouette. If I were to draw
the egg and the tabletop itself,
all the same value - let's just pretend that that's all
down dark. That would be a silhouette. This
foreground separating from this background in every instance. So
silhouette. Very, very important. We wanna be able to
silhouettes, which means
I want the shapes to be beautiful and interesting
and varied. Beautiful, interesting,
and varied. They don't have to be beautiful even
they can be clunky, oddball,
but they need to be interesting an they need to be varied.
So in this case we're doing architectural work here.
This is environment. We're gonna do a stained glass
window here. Maybe
from some ruins, bit of ruins.
And we're just gonna let this vignette off.
Vignetting means to break
away and fade out before the completion of the
outline. Before you get to the end of the silhouette.
So let's say we have a stained
glass window here.
The ruins of.
So maybe the facade wall of some
ruins of old Britannia kinda thing.
Like that. Now, notice
what we have here. When I look at the shape I
see some big, massive shapes of dark.
We have the whole figure ground.
We have a foreground
against a background in relationship to a
background. That's always the
basis of a silhouette. Foreground against background. It might be the sky
behind there. It might be a wall, wallpaper in front of
a set table or behind a set table. But a foreground, background
relationship. That's the basis of our silhouette
here. All these shapes are
essentially flat. There's some vague suggestion of texture and rendering because of
the sketch technique I used, but if I was very careful,
filled this all in and there's a reason I didn't actually other than just time
filled that all in, then we'd have a
perfect cut out black, let's say, against white here.
So forgive the imperfections for the moment and let's take a look.
Let's take a look more carefully at what we have now. Notice now
once we look at the mass of it, the foreground, dark, against the
background. What we have here is a silhouetted situation
or a foreground, background relationship where we have a
dark figure, let's say it's
a little man in shadow, in a dark outfit.
Dark figure on light ground. We could have that in silhouette
or we could have a light figure
on a dark ground.
Either way it wouldn't matter. It could be a colors
different, a green figure on a red ground.
Intense figure on a gray ground. All those are silhouettes.
And both of these situations, pure flat. There's
no sense of volume, no hint,
no description of the volume. It's just silhouette, this
shape in total against that shape.
So here as we look at this silhouette
we want to, generally - I'm gonna give you the general
guidelines on the design of this. And of course
guidelines on the design of this. And of course
once you have the general guidelines you can play havoc with them. Have a ball
breaking the rules, changing the rules, expanding,
distorting, reacting to the rules, all that kind of stuff.
But in general if we keep a big mass.
Big mass. So we have all the walls,
structure, the egg and the top of the table top, all
in a dark value. And again, let's just forgive the
breaking off of this for a second. We have a big
mass of value. And then within that big mass of value
it's broken into a big sky hole we can call it.
Landscape painters call those sky holes. Often times where you've got
trees and you can see through some of the break of the
foliage, the leaves, to the sky behind. So these sky holes.
You can see by technique I've got a little sky hole up here even and
a couple little ones around here. But this one was intentional.
A big sky hole here. So now we've got a light
figure on a dark ground. So notice the silhouettes have
played back and forth against each other. Take that sky hole out, we have
a dark figure against a light ground. Take the background out
we now have a light figure on a dark ground.
Just in terms of shape.
And this could be, of course, instead of being the sky behind, this could be
curtains. Sheer curtains over the top of it. Or the stained glass of the
piece if it wasn't broken up.
So silhouettes. When you're doing silhouettes, look for your biggest,
simplest shapes first, design those in relationship.
In general, if you can have one shape
substantially bigger than another,
you're probably better off. So if
the figure fills up
most of the environment,
we have very little background left. Or if the background
dominates a little or a lot the figure, we have more of it
on top. We can exaggerate that, we can make it
a little figure here in a big environment.
Like that. It's more interesting generally if we push
away from that equal -
equally - an equal amount of
dark to light. It's better if we break it up a little bit.
So that's our silhouette.
So look for your biggest masses first.
Put those in usually first is the safe way to go.
So if I've got the tree line here - old tree line again that we've used several times.
And the ground here, and let's do another tree
And even have it
hang over here. Now we've got this
encroaching foliage coming out of the woods maybe. That little figure
coming out of the woods. And most of this
composition is dark, with just a little bit of light. And then maybe in the
light we've got the mountain that the figure's gonna climb up the
hillside and the sky behind it.
Our three values. Notice it worked fine before with the two values.
But as I break down my painting - and it could be a painting that's
massive. Could be bigger than - no, not bigger than life, it's landscape - but bigger than you are.
It could be a ten by twelve foot painting. We'd still break it down the
It could be a ten by twelve foot painting. We'd still break it down the
same way, we design it the same way, and I would start sketching little
thumbnails these are called. Because they're not much bigger than my thumb. Thumbnails to
work it out. Sometimes smaller yet, sometimes bigger
yet if I want to work out a little bit of the drawing and some of the finer points of the design.
But working out the masses. We're gonna go through a series of these little
studies together in probably the next lecture, and I'll take you through this.
But what I want to do is I want to start to be sensitive to seeing
things as a mass. As a complete
silhouette and then what does that do for my design? Think of
kindergarten or whenever you did it,
when you drew the pencil around your hand and
often times turned it into a little turkey. You know you drew that silhouette, copied it, traced it
out on your paper and you had your nice silhouette. That's what
we're looking for. The mass, as much as the cropping of the piece
lets it, seeing that complete shape, in mass,
in position in your composition. Working with your design.
I want one shape, often times, to
dominate. Notice these two are dominating
that little figure and this guy is dominating that.
This side of the tree line is more dominant, it's bigger, it's over hanging, it's pushing
in, it's thrusting across the composition, starting to take -
go from the right and crowd the left, and this piece looks like
a bad jigsaw puzzle is roughly trying to fit inside but is
dominated by its bowing back, it is taking in
less of the mass, this side is pushing,
thrusting forward, taking in more
of the mass of the composition. And then the ground ties
So feel that kind of thrusting and
connectivity, relationships. The artist
is someone who's taking all the pieces and putting them together.
Taking the parts and making relationships out of them. A complete
composition. A complete gesture. A complete color harmony.
A complete tune, melody.
Complete storyline. We're trying to take the elements and bring them together. That's where the
magic and the interest and all the fun is and also some of the
frustration unfortunately. But that's what we're working with.
So look again at our silhouette here. Notice
now how this is a big mass, and had I completed this out
it would have absolutely dominated the whole composition. As it is, even though
it breaks a part, with my being
too lazy to finish it, it still dominates the composition.
Now also look at how the right side
of this is very different than the left side.
The left side, let's say for a second,
completed all the way across. The left side would have no -
this far left side would have no silhouette, it would just
be the cropped frame here.
This side has a very energetic silhouette.
Now let's look at the vignette for a second. The fact
that I did not finish this, that I let it break apart, maybe it breaks off
because this is a painterly way of saying that it's a World War II
cathedral that got bombed out in the Blitzkrieg and this is broken brick work
here. And so these are the fragments that are just kinda scattered. Notice
that the painterly style, the strokes went every which way
and as they went, they kind of hatched
and crossed hatched over each other and each time
I went over the top it got a little darker, and each time I
left it as a hatch, it got a little lighter.
Coming off. And it creates a shape of its own.
Let's kinda cautify this shape
into something. And
go ahead and finish it out now.
There we go. Now again, look at how
radically different the right side is from the left side.
That difference is interest, it's drama, it's the two sides not
getting along. In a love story if the two partners get along all the way
through you don't have a story. It's how they separate and then come back together.
Or how they come together and then separate, depending on whether it's a comedy or a tragedy.
We want that dynamic difference. That
asymmetry. The - what is over here is
not the same as what is over there. We want that difference.
But at the same time we want
some kind of connectivity to it too. The shapes over here - while
very different than the shapes here - have a certain commonality. They're boxy.
They're all little boxes
that are sticking
or are stuck together.
And so that boxiness, that kinda stair step or
zig zag, hatching kinda quality
pulls it through. And of course the values are the same or very similar. So the
difference is the silhouette shape here is a
completely different ragged
process than over here. But the jagged
or ragged quality has a similarity
kinda blocky, architectural, chipped out
feel to it. And they're values are the same, the same
yet different. That's always what we're looking for in art. The same and yet
different. And that's what we're driving for as artists
because that's what we are interested in as human beings. We are
different than everybody else. We know that intuitively deep inside and yet
we have a connection to everybody else that is deep and profound
in many ways unbreakable. We are the same
yet different. We are a human animal like every other human animal,
and yet we are the only us there's ever been in this
world. We're in this world and we're completely unique in many, many levels.
And so that difference and similarity that we experience in our lives
we look for or we find resonance with when we see it in
art work. So artists are constantly working with symmetry and
asymmetry. What is the same and what is difference?
What is different? A contract and affinity
is another name for it. And that's what we want in our
design. There is a forest of trees on this side, there's a forest of trees
on that side. And yet the forest of trees is a little different at least
than that. There is a figure here that is symmetrical.
What's on this side is the same that's on this side.
And yet there's a slight difference. Let's blow him up
and show these little out of position.
Out of symmetry. This side bulges out a little bit
this binds in slightly. A little blob shape
has a similarity, this side has a deep resonance with that side and yet they're
at least slightly unique to each other.
That's what we're looking for. And notice that the vignetting out,
letting things sketch out and be unfinished -
sketch out and be unfinished -
creates a kind of energy and finish in itself.
So that when you're doing a little sketch in a pencil or drawing medium
or in paint, wet medium, leaving
things broken and unfinished, letting them slowly
go from resolution to dissolution
is very, very interesting. It creates a change that's
marked, that's interesting, it's a design choice in effect.
It starts as one thing and becomes another.
And shows us how we go from one to the other. Notice
it slowly breaks apart. The gradation
slowly changes value. We talked about gradation
yesterday. Or last lecture. Gradation gives us that sense of
movement. And it draws us through. It's a timing and a
song and dance. It's the page turner of the
story that keeps us interested and wanting us to know what happens next
Every art form has its little tricks for drawing us from
this to that. From dark to light, from
top to bottom, from resolved to unresolved.
From realistic to abstract maybe. Those are all
design choices. They're all things again that we'll look at
a little bit later in other lectures we have a lot more
Now I can come back with my three value
Here's a dark night sky.
Maybe the cloud of war smoke,
that's illuminated by a fire
off screen. One value, the
blast smoke let's say. Second value is the
middle value's sky and sky holes. And the middle
ground, middle value foreground. And then the dark value of course is
the ruins itself. So notice -
and maybe we have a figure. Maybe this is the priest coming back
and he's the same value - he's the same
value as the ruins because he is of those ruins. He's connected to
that. That was his place of worship, his place to work
and now its been lost. And so we can start to use these
ideas, these values in this case, to start to tell us
story. We feel connection between these two things because
they're the same value. And even the priest is drawn in a slightly same
that the ruins have. So
that's silhouette. Looking for the foreground, the background
relationships. And silhouettes can go to anything, they can go
to costume differences between light and shadow. But we're
using them as big design tools right now. In other words, as
a painter I don't have to render any form, I don't have to be
a great draftsman if I'm a decent designer. In fact I would argue
that good drawing is good design. If you can design the shapes
well - the shape of foreground to background and eventually the shape of light to shadow -
that's drawing in a nutshell. You got it.
We wanna start out with good design, good silhouettes to work with.
And notice that when we do - let's come over here because it has some rendering on it now -
some action on it - here in the simpler form. This has a little bit of
rendering, this has a lot of rendering for what we're at. This has no rendering.
It's just simple shapes. Notice when I design things very, very simple
how easy it is, or will be, to plug in the value
or the color in whatever medium I'm interested in.
So if I can draw well enough to get an interesting, lively
silhouette, then I can plug in the colors and I have to do
little or nothing to finish it out. And it can be very
dramatic, dynamic, and if it's carefully done, even very realistic.
So that's a silhouette idea. Let's go
to a little bit of structure now. Now if
I take another little
frame. When I'm sketching, working out ideas, I always like to do a little frame
so I've got a window into this world I'm trying to create.
And let's say that I've got
Among other rocks. We won't worry about the other rocks
That's what I saw.
Now what does that mean exactly?
Well, what I saw was a series of boxes. And we can say
they're just little square or rectangular
shapes. Shape is a two dimensional idea.
I'm gonna plug my values or my colors
into that as I paint and that will end up being rendering and drawing by
default. I can just design those pieces. So a simple, easy
way to work. We'll do some of that in some of our landscape
demos. More or less doing the same thing. And you don't have to think through
that nasty drawing idea that can be so intimidating
that we painters, especially we landscape painters.
Or we can say it's not just a box, it's a cube
block or wedge shape. And the
wedge shapes can be any
type of wedge. It doesn't have to be a right
type things. It can be any kinda wedge
structure. And it's not a bad idea
to work out drawing
simple shapes -
say a tube - and taking a chunk out of it. And you'll start to have to deal
with the wedge idea. Like that. Or
this kinda thing. Working out things blocky, boxy kinda stuff.
Alright so, anyway, we've got this wedge here.
Now if I'm going to
break it into basic values
I wanna know where the light source comes from.
And as I break this into shapes
all I'm looking for is where the planes
change. Where an angle changes. So I'm looking really for just corners.
Here's three corners. Corner,
corner, and then this is kinda a little corner out there that we can
put in or leave out or put it in and ignore it.
But what I really want is just to know where that changes directions.
Because where it changes directions there's a good chance it's gonna change
value. If this is the top of our boulder and this is the left side
of the boulder, then that's gonna end up being in shadow.
Our light source is up -
put it here and make sure we see it - up here and to the right. That means everything that
turns down and or to the left gets darker. So all I want
to do is I want to find the shape of the form
whatever it is. And then the shape off the shadow
on the form. There's the shape of the form, there's the shape
of the shadow on the form let's say.
And I don't care what detail's inside the shadow.
I don't care what detail's inside the light, unless it's a little
construction line - you can see the tube separates from that little
thumbnail end there. I just wanna know
where the light
shape or shapes
meet the shadow shapes. And I wanna give the shadows a dark value
and the lights a light value. Let's actually switch to a
marker so I can't make it as dark.
Just so you can see the process here.
Maybe that's a little too
dried out. There we go.
Okay, so that's in shadow.
This happened to be in shadow too. So I'm always
gonna draw the shape of the shadow and then draw all of
the shadow together. So even though there's two
sides of this wedgy shape, I'm gonna give it one
value. Just one value.
And let's say there's a little -
a little wedge
on top there. And
this has a shadow here.
And this has a shadow here. And you can
see how I can work through the whole composition
picking out all of those
And I can give it any value I want.
So I would work all the way
through - and let's just
let me find my original here again.
all of the values
and group it into -
find all the shadows and group it into one value.
All the way through.
It could be a very dark value and very painterly value
or it could be a middle value shadow
and fairly clean in application or very carefully
applied. But all I wanna do is find all of the light
and all of the shadow. So let's say I did that now. All the way
through. Let's put
this in here.
Let's say I've got all my shadow shapes now.
All the way through. If I were
planning to do anymore rendering I might keep the shadows
more in the mid range so I have room to work.
If I make them all very, very dark -
very, very dark, it doesn't feel
like a light, airy mountainside, let's say
that it's supposed to be.
Vignette that off a little bit. It doesn't feel light and airy, it feels
dark and ominous. So it wouldn't feel like a nice, sunny day. With
nature - and again we'll get into this when we get into full color
for our landscapes - but nature really works with two
light sources. It has the sunlight that hits - that's the direct light source. And if the sun's
off this way it's gonna hit and illuminate everything that turns up
in this direction. And then it's gonna go into shadow everything that
goes down and to the other direction. And so if it's up and to the
right it'll be shaded down and to the left. But then
there's the second light source and that's the bouncing, reflected
indirect. There's the direct light source that's the sun of the
spotlight in the studio and then there's the indirect light source.
The reflected light that bounces up. So the sun strikes me
and it strikes the mountain side. The mountain side throws
indirect, lesser light, bouncing light, off the
stones and into my shadows and lightens my shadows.
So one of the tricks of painting an outdoor scene that's in
rich sunlight is to not make the shadows too dark usually.
You make them very dark it feels ominous and oppressive. If you're inside
light this lighting, notice the black background behind me,
it's dead black almost. And that's because there's not a lot of
candle power on me. The studio lights here are strong, it's making me squint
but not so strong as the sun. The sun would illuminate that
background, make it much lighter. So indoor painters often times use very, very dark
values. If they're painting a woman in a black dress
they'll paint dead black often times for a good chunk of that dress. An outdoor
painter like Sorolla or Sargent or Monet or
Cecily or Pissarro or Van Gogh would
not do that. They would not go dead black outdoors, they'd bring it up
in value. So usually you don't want to go real dead in
value. It just feels
indoorish and oppressive. Now I could always come back and add
lighter reflective lights - lighter secondary lights in there.
But look what happens. As I start rendering away on this
the danger is that my light side's gonna look about the same as my shadow
side. What I would prefer to do
is have a process that supports
my thinking. I think of shadows as dark
ideas. And the more I work on the shadows the more I wanna build
ideas. And the more I work on the shadows the more I wanna build
they're relative darkness. And so if I start out with a value
in the shadows that's more in the mid
range then I can come back and say well
actually now this side of the box in shadow is a little darker
than this side of the box. This side of the rocky box
is pointing downhill and this side of the rocky box is
pointing back to some rocks that are in light. And it's getting lighter let's say.
So now I can come back and I can render in the shadows
a two value range.
I have two values, I have the light value and the shadow value. Now in
the shadows I'm gonna render a range of dark values.
Middle to dark, middle dark to dark,
middle to middle light, whatever, but in the mid range. And then in the
light side I might do a little bit of rendering too and do light to middle light.
So that'll be
my track all the way through.
I can render my two value system, I can separate
all the shadows from all the lights and then I can come back and give secondary -
Value ranges I should say,
within that. So maybe I'll do a little gradation
here. And now it starts to separate. So notice now I have
two distinct values in the shadow but when I squint they tend to group
together against the light. They're still dark ideas
against this or these light ideas.
And I can work all the way through. So here we have
two values in light, one value
one plane in shadow. The bottom plane is in shadow,
the two side and front planes are in light and then we
notice that the light source maybe is more directly in the front and so
this side plane gets just a little darker. Notice the technique
doesn't really matter. You can do it any way you want.
and it probably doesn't matter very much, it certainly doesn't matter near as much as choosing
a good shape and a good value. So notice now these two planes
for this chunk of rock or subtly
different values. This is slightly lighter, this is slightly darker. This is dark, this is
dark middle. So I'm doing a value
range within there. I might be assigning a new range to a new
plane in shadows. Notice the different value, different plane idea
is working in the shadows. And we can make it work in the lights here.
Now a boxy
resolution to this form. And so that form
in light has two values. Boxing it out.
But these two values group to the light side and
these two values, these two values group to the dark side.
And the way we tell if we're getting it right is the squint test.
Look at all your shadows in the painting you're trying to do and squint at it.
If you squint and they all group together pretty well you're in good shape.
If you squint and some of the shadows group over to the lights, you're in trouble.
Different value, different plane. If I make some of the shadows the same as
the lights they look like they're flat. They look like they're in the same
plane and it destroys your form. You've got to mass all of the
shadows against all of the lights. You
don't necessarily have to group all of the foreground against the background.
You can have these rocks going back into the fog
and fading away and becoming the same value
as the fog bank that's come into the
Fading back. Okay,
so box logic. Get a shape for your form,
a simple shape or a complicated shape, a round shape or a square
shape. Then assign - find a shape with shadow on it,
assign a value to the shadow that's dark and distinct
another value to the light, we just let the paper be the default
value in this case, another value to the light that's light and distinct.
Two value system, squint to make sure they separate, then within the shadows
you can separate ever more refined planes. You can
separate a million different planes. But when you squint back at those million
little separations, they should all group into one cohesive, dark
whole. Gradation can
take it down darker in the base, lighter at the top.
You can play with all those gradation ideas, but
maybe that fades out that way.
If we come out of the fog into some of the dark blue sky
above. We're looking for those simple shapes. Let's try
it with a round form now.
Now I'm gonna have this round shape
and shadow. They're all rounder shapes.
of my shadow shapes should group together pretty well. Squint at them
and if they don't, bring them back into -
into discipline, into line.
Getting them all grouping. You can add basic gradation, vignette
things out to make a plane sit down in
space. Or to create
greater contrast. So
I can give a flair of dark here.
Doesn't matter what the technique
is - it does of course, some techniques will be beautiful
to your eye and some techniques will be sloppy or uninteresting
or boring or whatever other negative, nasty
name you wanna call them.
But the technique is not the point. The point is the basic
shapes and then assigning a two value system to those shapes.
All of the shadows group against all of the lights.
If you have opaque medium
then the indiscretions of your construction
lines can be gotten rid of. Or you can just leave them there as
an interesting little part of the energy
dynamics of a sketch. Of searching out the ideas
that are what you need for your composition.
that are what you need for your composition.
But now these are all round forms. We can
render within the shadows then two value systems, so maybe the cast shadows
underneath these little rocks get
Get slightly darker
and the body of the shadows stay lighter. Maybe these rocks
are rounded as we said and so they need a little gradation coming out.
That can be carefully worked out, or since it's a sketch for maybe a big
four by four foot painting I'm gonna do, I can
leave it more painterly.
But notice the energy that
happens with that sketch. You still get all the ideas, but you get the fresh
idea and I like working looser. It's quicker, there's less pressure
if I screw it up I've only put five or ten minutes or an hour into it
not 20, 30 hours. So it's easier to give up, easier to change
if you come up with a new idea. And sometimes you end up
like these little hatches could be the strata
the striations in the rock, in the granite. And so it starts
to suggest the texture. Remember we said hard edges, soft
edges with gradation and texture were the three things that you
could master to master your medium. You didn't have to master
the texture but sometimes with a painterly stroke, with a looser,
freer thought process, you come across
the textural idea just through the technique. Just through the energy that's
stroke. And that's one of the fun things if you're an alla prima painter
especially. You go out and like to paint on location, which I'm sure a lot of you
love to do. So you work out those simple systems.
So it doesn't matter whether you're dealing with round shapes
or tubular shapes. You know you can see
or tubular shapes. You know you can see
we can think of the thumb as a
tube, a very specific tube shape. If I can
conceive of things or no, no, no that's all wrong
that should be
much more boxy.
You can see if we can conceive of things as tube
or ball or box we have great
control over the world that's presented to us. Even the
organic world. And what we can do
if we need to get that gesture idea -
that gesture idea coming in
we can line up several, stiffer forms. Notice each of these is kind of an egg.
Now an egg curves in every direction so it doesn't have a natural gesture, a
natural bias. A tube or a box
or a boxy, wedgy
shape can have a natural
flow, curvature to it, an extra gesture. An egg or a
ball, a sphere, does not. But what you can
do is you can line up several of these fellows together. So notice
these rocks come together.
And we'll put another one here even.
lines up together as a gesture. We get that flow and then of course
there's a curvature to the dominant contours that we see.
That scalloping idea and those presumed rocks.
Supposed rocks there. That create a lot of interest for us.
Here's another one here.
So there's our gesture. There's our
flow flowing through. And notice how it takes these separate items and
ties them into a greater hole. Coheres. Coheres, makes
them work. That's what color harmony does too. Color harmony just says that
colors have something in common. If they're harmonious they have something in common. So maybe
in this blue sky landscape, every single color has a little bit of blue in it.
They would harmonize around blue, that would help them cohere.
And so that's what we're doing with our gesture line. We're getting these things to flow
together. And it can be boxes, tubes, or balls and they can still -
we can find a way to make them flow together. So a
box can be draw with
out a straight line.
It can be curved and still be wedged,
wedgy like, wedge like, box like.
Okay, so that's basic form.
Different value, different plane. In this case every time the
form turns to the right or turns down
it gets darker. Every time it turns
up and or to the right it gets lighter. That's our
basic idea. Different value, different plane.
Those planes now are
working to describe a specific form
environment. The form turns out of light, goes darker,
turns up into light, gets lighter. It gets us going.
Value controls our design, it maps out
and controls and gives that pop of form. We use
the squint test to make sure it's working for us on both levels and then we
can add all the beautiful color we want on top. And we will stop there.
Here we're gonna talk about value and the importance of value
in terms of our color. The importance of value in terms of our drawing. So let's
begin with that. Value.
Let me switch pens there.
Little better. Not good value in my pen.
Value. Now when we get into full color
what we're gonna find is that there's three aspects to color.
There's value, temperature, and intensity. Value is the
white to black, the light to dark aspect.
Temperature is the warm to cool, the fire and ice.
The hue. What we usually think of as the color. The blues, the reds,
the yellows, all that kinda stuff. And intensity is the rich to gray. The really
bright, out of the tube colors and the dirty, muddy colors that get
polluted as we use them too much. So rich to gray
gives us a range of things we can do with color. Warm to cool
gives us a range of things and of course light to dark, the value gives us
a range of things we can do with color. Of the three aspects, value's the most
important and lucky for us it's the easiest I think.
So what we want to do is when we paint, when we render in value
and or in color, we wanna be very clear on
what our values are doing for us and why they're doing it.
So let's take a look at that. Value. Value
is important because it's our experience of life and
more importantly, for we artists, it's our audience's experience.
And so if we can mimic or manipulate the experience the
audience has through value, they'll feel the reality of
or the craziness of our artwork
because it will gel or clash with their experience. And here's why.
This simple formula is why. Every time our audience
sees a different value
on, say, the trunk of a tree, or the flesh of
an arm, they will see that
as a different
plane. Different value equals
different plane. Different value equals different plane.
If they see the back of the wrist as a lighter value
than the side of the wrist, then they will see
a, what I call box logic
taking place. And that is what they do see. They'll see
the side turns this way, the front turns that way, it's catching
light in a different way because of those facing
dimensions. And so we get a two value system.
The back of the wrist is lighter in this case. The side of the wrist
is darker or the front of the hand is lighter in this case,
the bottom of the hand is darker. Different value, different
plane. That gives us volume. That gives us
dimension. We can show this mass, this chiaroscuro
light and shadow logic that controls the
world basically. It's our experience with the world. When we have a
light source in the house, we turn on the lamp to read by. So when we go our on
the landscape under the sun and that sun hits us direct light
hits us in certain areas, where it doesn't hit us we call that
shadow. Light and shadow, chiaroscuro
in traditional art. So when we look at Rembrandts and Caravaggios
Delacour, all those
folks. Sargents, Zoran, all that kinda stuff.
We see that chiaroscuro idea. That light and shadow
controlling the structure. So if we wanna get good volume, good
mass out of our drawings, then we need to create that different value, different
plane. Now in the first lecture we talked about how to draw, but we only talked
about two dimensional drawing, we didn't really get into three dimensional
drawing. And we're not gonna get too much into it. But the basis
of getting that sense of volume in your work, in
your landscapes in this case, in the rock formations on the cliff, in the
cloud formations in the sky, in the trees,
the trunks and limbs and roots of the tree
look upon that. We wanna see the value different. And so here's the
way I look at it. Different value, different plane.
Let me set these down for a second. If you
were to take the tree trunk, let's call this our tree trunk
that we're painting and the limbs going up this way. If we were to take this tree trunk
and try to give it good volume, we would find
that there's a light pattern and a shadow pattern on
it. If it was all in shadow we could just break it down
simply for now and make it one flatter shape. But if we're trying to get that volume
out of the imagery, we're gonna break it into
a two value system. We're gonna make the light side a
different value than the shadow side. The light will be lighter, the shadow will
be darker, and we'll get that box logic. If we were to make the light side
and the shadow side the same value, look what happens.
It goes flat. We see flatness. So if we're
painting our picture and everything's more or less the same value even though
our colors are fantastic, it's going to feel lacking.
It's not gonna have that impact, that weight, that volume, that
chiaroscuro, that sense of depth and
sense of great landscape space, we call that aerial perspective that we'll talk about
in a moment. We'll have none of that. All we'll have is pretty
harmonious colors if we're lucky. But we're not gonna have good
solidity to it. So the value becomes really important. More than that
if we look at our painting, and sometimes we don't like the colors, sometimes
it's not because we didn't make them harmonious enough, that green and that
orange and that yellow and that turquoise could be
working just fine together in terms of temperature or intensity
It's their value that's off. If we get our values
really well placed, very realistic or very dramatic, or very
dynamic, or very subtly true. Whatever it is we're after
but if we nail those values, the color, the rest of the
color aspects come along much more easily. And so if our greens are a little
garish against our oranges, if the value's really good
sometimes your audience will forgive it. Often times you'll forgive it. You'll say hey that's not so bad.
But we need those values to hold all that together.
So let's look at this again. Every time we give
this plane a different value
than that plane we'll feel that. So different value value, different plane. The front of the
box, the front of the tree, the front of the lock
is lighter and the side or the bottom
is darker. Different value, different plane.
If I don't do that, if I don't make those two planes a
different value it'll look flat no matter what I do with the color. It's gonna kill it.
In terms of its volume and its weight and its sense of depth
that you need. The great difficulty in landscape is the
depth, showing miles of space on a flat canvas, on a flat piece of paper. How do you
do that exactly? None of the other
genres you have that great problem. In a figurative work you can be looking
in just a few inches, maybe a foot and a half or so. And that's all
you have to have in a figurative work to make it successful. You have to show the
depth back just this far. It's not so hard. Same with a
still life. Still life it can be just three or four inches. In a
Trompe-l'œil you can have a little box painting where you have
the quill and the little watch and the piece of bone
and, you know, the hanging rabbit or whatever it is, and it might be just a few
inches. Just this much of depth. Not a problem. In a landscape
you always have great, great depth. Several feet, often times
several miles. How do you show that on flat canvas? The first step
is this. Different value, different plane. if we don't do it
same value, same plane. Now watch: same value, same plane, different value,
different plane. And that works for any plane structure.
Same value, same plane. Different value, different plane, same value, same plane,
different value, different plane. Doesn't matter which two planes you're separating, they've
gotta have a different plane structure. And I know what you're
thinking. You're thinking about what about those extra planes? We'll talk about those in a second.
Different value, different plane. Basically what we're doing is we're trying to
separate all the light from all the shadow. As an artist,
as a visual composer you only have two problems. Separating
the light from the shadow when there is a light and shadow separation as there almost always
is. And separating foreground from background. Which unless you're
doing a vignette, like an old Saturday evening post
cover by Rockwell or Leyendecker, there always is. So
separating foreground from background and light from shadow. So one more time.
Same value, same plane, different value, different plane. That's how you're gonna show
structure in any object. Now watch what happens.
Same value, same plane, different value, different plane. That's how you're gonna
show structure in any composition. If you wanna show
foreground, background relationship the same rule
Different value, different plane applies.
If the tree is the same value as the clouds
it'll look like this. If the tree is a different value than the clouds,
it'll look like this. And you can make it look like this, you can
create miles of space. The impression of miles of space by doing that.
That's kind aerial perspective. Where things that go
back into the environment change in value and they change
in color by the way. And in aerial perspective what happens
is as the objects go farther back into the
blue sky, into the blue atmosphere or into the gray fog, whatever
that atmosphere is, they take on more and more of the value
and more and more of the color of that. So as we go back let's look at that.
If we're to make this a little kid's pop up card game
and we said, here is
the trees and bushes and the ground.
And here is the
And here is the cloud formation.
the sky. To make this work pictorially,
clouds, and sky, we would have to
give each level of space it's own
Its own value. And by doing that
this is very dark, this is middle
value, this is very light, this is middle light.
By doing that we can create those levels of space. And notice what happens
even when we get to four levels of space it starts to get a little more
difficult to separate your values, they start to group together. Well if we have another
shape, another level between them that
separates them with a new value we can forgive that and then of course
this would be nice blue sky and this'll be maybe purple mountain majesty
right here. So the color will help too and the
drawing, the context of the drawing will help. But by giving each level of space it's own
value, then we will give it a sense of
depth hopefully and probably. Now what happens you say -
different value, different plane, same value, same plane, same value,
same plane, different value, different plane. What happens when you have to render? Because the fact is
if I look at any particular objects, I'll see a ton
of different values on there, not just two.
The only two we're interested in is all the shadows grouping dark
and all the lights grouping light. And everything else
we don't worry about in the beginning. Just let it go. And then we go to
each local object, each local color and give it its own
light and value area.
So this light side and this shadow side is a different
value range than this. This is a little lighter, this is a little darker.
This is darker yet.
This is lighter yet. So each local color
object would have to have its own two value system. Notice how
crazy that gets quickly. We have the leaves on the tree.
and the fruit on the tree and the branches, the bark on the tree, and the grass
on the ground and the rocks on the ground and the dirt in the ground and the weeds in the ground and the
flowers in the ground and then we have the turf, the pasture, back here. All the stuff
that's on the mountains, snow and forest
and rock and all that kinda stuff and clouds
are pretty easy for us luckily, and blue sky.
This is all blue, terrific, this is all white let's say, terrific
But often times a particular area
will have several local
colors, a costumed figure will have several local colors. The hair,
the flesh, the shirt, the jewelry, all
that kinda stuff, buttons, microphone, all that kinda stuff will have its own
colors and values. Drive us crazy. So what we have to do
the trick with being an artist is remembering the
first lecture I mentioned gaps. The audience wants to help
us, they'll fill in those gaps for us.
when I talk about this. When I do that
what have I drawn? You'll say hopefully triangle. But I didn't really draw a
triangle, I drew three dots. You drew the triangle. You did it for me.
You did most of the work. So if we give them a certain kind of
logic to our picture, a certain idea in our
picture, here's our idea: different value, different plane. Different
value, different plane. If we stick to that idea and reduce the whole world
with all its complexity down to that simple, clean
statement, they'll go ah that makes sense.
And you've invited them into your world because it's accessible. And then
what you leave out they'll fill in on their own.
You don't have to give them everything. When you have a John Wayne walk into
a saloon, not too often any more I guess, Westerns are
out of fashion, but when he goes into a saloon, every bum and drunk and
bartender doesn't have to have a great line, a great action,
great backstory, they're just there. We have
John Wayne, that's all we need. We make him real and have the great
lines and the great actions. And everybody else the audience will fill in
for us. They'll take care of them for us. It'll seem real
even though they're not much more than paper cut outs for that scene.
The audience does most of the work for us. So if we will do the little
work of making all the stuff, whatever it is
in this level of space, one value -
they'll be a caveat to that in a second - and then the second level of space
a new value, the third level of space, the fourth value of space, fifth
value - level - of space. And as I said, as you get
past three into four and five it gets tougher and tougher and tougher to create
levels of space because you run out of values. You only have from one to
ten. From black to white. So it makes it a little tougher.
But we're gonna group everything. Rock and flower and
branch and twig into one value system. Or
if it's a very complicated area, there is a lot of stuff
in there, there's the leaves and the flowers and the bark
and the ground and the rocks and the grass, all that kinda stuff, then we can break it into a value
range. A value range. And that does two things for us.
We can take an area - notice that the
mountains I broke into a value range. It was overall a middle value, but
it went from middle light to middle dark, almost as dark
as the tree, the forest area here.
And notice had I pushed it any darker, it would have become
that dark and gotten lost. And pictorially that might have been beautiful,
in terms of design. But in terms of the information, now that
is flat to our eye. We don't see that as separating, we
see it as grouping. Those mountains are no longer miles away, they're
right up - I've done this, they've come right up to the
tree line now and flattened. That might be just what you want to do for your picture but you've lost that
depth. So if we want to keep that integrity of space, that area of
perspective, the value of the objects back here have to be
a different value and or a different value range than
the objects up here. Now when we do our
picture then, we're gonna separate each level
in space. Or if we're just rendering an object, say a figure
with a background behind it or it could be a human
figure or it could be a piece of fruit, say an orange on the table cloth.
We're gonna break it into a two value system.
Two value system.
Each level of space
well that's gonna be a problem isn't it?
What are we gonna do? Two values for this,
two values for this, two values for this,
two values for this, two values for that. That's ten values if I have five levels of space.
Which could easily happen in a landscape. All the sudden I've got
ten values and they're all gonna be just incrementally different and my painting
isn't gonna make it, it's not gonna work. So that can't work. So here's what
I'm gonna do. If I render any particular object I've gonna make it a two
value system. The light against the shadow. That's my only requirements.
If there's a light and shadow pattern I need to separate and show that, the light
has to be a light value, the shadow has to be a dark value. Two values.
If I've got an
environment with a foreground background, then I've gotta
make this - I need more values. So instead
of going all the way to ten, like I might be tempted to do with this complicated
set up. Let's say there's a
storm cloud way back here coming. There's my fifth value
up here. Instead of
going crazy with ten values, that's not gonna work, I'm gonna change my two value
system to a three value system. Just one more
value. Now, look what this does for me.
By taking all of the costumed figure, or all of
the lush, rich levels of space in the landscape, or all of
the pieces of fruit and vegetable and objects in the still life and giving them
each their own two value range - you know if you got
26 pieces of fruit in there and they're all different types of fruit
that's 52 values. You just can't do that. So what're we gonna do?
We're gonna reduce all that down. All of the light and shadow
separation, all of the foreground and background separation, all are
gonna be done in three values. Three values
I'm gonna start there. I can always do more. But I want to start
simple and keep it easy so it's logical and inviting to my audience.
So it's manageable and maybe, more importantly, even
manageable and sustainable for me. Because if I have to juggle 52
values it's gonna fall apart on me. Three values - not so hard.
I'm gonna make it three values.
That means, unfortunately,
I'm gonna lose a tremendous amount. Maybe I've gotta lose
the fairly dark mountains with the fairly
dark foreground here
of ground and forest.
Now that's a shame, I lost that lovely depth. There was six miles
of space. I just lost. That is a shame. But look
what's left over. What's left over is I have this
beautiful pasture that we can look at.
And I've got these beautiful clouds that we can look at and they
fully separate out. And I've got this lovely sky
with the accompanying storm in there. And maybe even the storm clouds
start to group
in there. And I've lost even more.
But what I've ended up with is a middle value
sky, middle value - let's just make this simpler here -
middle value pasture, field, light
value clouds. Three values. All the dark things grouped together
all the middle things grouped together, even if they don't touch,
they're grouping in value, all the light things grouped together.
I make a three value system. Let's make it simpler. Let's make it a little egg on a
object we'll call it in an environment.
Notice that if it's a super simple
set up - super simple set up.
There's a shadow pattern maybe. I could even do it in two values.
I could have the egg on the table cloth with a background and do it in two values.
Terrific. If I don't need three why go to three.
What about the rendering, well we'll get to the rendering, hang on a second.
But if I have any kind of complexity, certain
number of objects, the value ranges involved, I'm gonna probably find
I need three values. Now look what happens here.
I've got the dark background and the dark
shadow and let's just say even the front of the table is a shadow.
I've got the middle value table cloth and I have the
light value egg. One,
two, three values.
Now look at how graphic and powerful that can be.
Let's do it here.
Look at how
simple and powerful it is. Simple to design, simple to put down and paint,
or in whatever medium, and it's gonna be simple to render as I'll show you in
a little bit. But look at
the tragedy of this. Look at what we have lost. We have lost
where the egg separates from the table cloth and where the egg separates
from the shadow. And we may have lost some of the subtle
folds and wrinkles in the table cloth and on and on. We've given up
a tremendous amount. The detail in the background we've lost.
So by keeping it simple and graphic, just this
plug in this value here, second value there, the third value over there,
we make it clean, simple, inviting, easy
to control, easier to render, easier to
finish off and if we leave it simple it reads well. We can leave it
as a simple, loose sketch like this and we don't have to do anything else
and it still reads beautifully. It reads quite well. So it's great for doing
little studies, little comps to work out ideas quickly
to do these beautiful, simplified, lovely
sonnets of the world, little notes of the world.
But, as renderers, as realists,
as many of us, probably most of, maybe even all of us, are watching these tapes
that's probably not quite satisfying enough. We want to make it more
real. So instead of doing
three values to render all the subtleties of the egg
or it could be the spaceship landing in the fields at night to do its crop circle
or something that's gonna be a big landscape. Instead of doing
three values for that whole world to show miles of
space, great dimensions of space crafts and sky and all that good stuff -
details of the crop circle design. And notice we could do the crop
circles as a dark value there too.
Instead of three values we're gonna make it three value
ranges. Once we design we want to render, make it more
realistic, more sophisticated, more nuanced, more
interesting. We're just gonna make it three value ranges. And then we'll add gradation.
When we do ranges all we're saying
is we're gonna do gradation. Now here's the lovely thing about
gradation. There's several lovely things about gradation.
Let's do that same little still life. Here's
to make its crop circle.
There's its shadow. Here's the field.
So we got the glowing
spaceship that's the light value,
the field which is the middle value, and the
dark night sky
which is the dark value.
And notice I don't even have to do it very well to get the basic idea. I can
leave it painterly, loose, crude even. And
any impressionist paintings are exactly that. They're not interested in that
virtuosity that a Sargent or a Van Dyck
would have or a van Eyck or something like that.
They're interested in just the raw dabs, the [indistinct], Titian
would say. The dab stroke and not the beautiful drawn form
just the impression of color on the form and, in our case, the impression of
value on the form. So we can work in any style, any technique
we want. We can be like a Gustav Klimt or a
Rembrandt or a Michelangelo, take your pick. So work in any
style. Picasso. There's a three value system.
Now if I wanna make it more sophisticated, I wanna show that this is a
this disk is really more of a cigar, egg shape
then I'm gonna add gradation. Look what happens, let me make this a little stronger
so we can see -
dark value, dark value, dark value, and now
I'm gonna add gradation. And notice how I do it.
Gradation's easy. With any medium, whether it's my
brush or my finger, any
tools, any medium, dry pigment,
or wet pigment, watercolor.
What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna make a zig zag stroke.
I'm gonna start where the border of the two values meet.
The dark shadow against the light light in this case, and I'm gonna
zig zag moving my tool, whatever it is, let's use this tool
along the border and zig zag up,
dragging one silhouetted value up into the other
and I get a natural gradation. And the more carefully I do it, the more
beautiful and perfect that gradation is. And you can see how quickly I did that
gradation didn't I? There's the
light value still there, but now what did I do? When I rendered with the
gradation I took my three value system
and then I'm going to render it into three value ranges. And so
what was my light value of my egg -
let me grab this to make it
clearer. What was my light value for my egg, in this case
white - zigzag back the other way with
whatever tool -
I'm just gonna drag a darker
value into the lighter value or I'm gonna drag the lighter value
into the darker value by zigzags. Notice that it could be
painterly. Cross hatching and pen and ink for example to get
the gradation of black to gray. Or loose
brush strokes. Like impressionist
painters would do. So it can be broken color. It can be loose
technique. But it's the same idea. The zigzag
or the hatch
or the perfectly blended gradation. So here's the good news
if you wanna master your medium - any medium - pencil,
pen and ink, oil paint, watercolor,
gouache, casein, anything. All you
have to do is be able to create hard edges between your two colors of values.
There's my hard edge, hard edge. Notice the
drawing of your composition and
plugging in your values in the composition creates your
hard edges usually pretty naturally. And it's nice to stay
with hard edges because then I can say well that's the wrong value. If it's all hard edged
I can plug in a brand new value or
brand new color right into it and take care of it. So
hard edges are nice in terms of design. It's easy to change
the design, fix the design, or find the drawn shape, the scale
of the shape, the nuances of the shape, and it's easy to plug in a value or
a color into that graphic shape and compare it to your other
graphic values and colors to build your composition up. So I need
to be able to do hard edges and flat
passages of color and value. And I need to be able to do soft edges
and gradations. Soft edges,
So your colors are gonna come together in only three ways.
Hard, soft, or lost, diffused, they'll just fade out.
So we have the egg coming
against the background at a hard edge.
Our little spaceship here. We have the light of the spaceship meeting the
shadow of the spaceship at a soft edge I should
say. And then maybe we have the spaceship -
the dark spaceship shadow in the middle
at night time - a lost edge. You can't tell me where
the spaceship ends and the field begins
there. Hard, hard,
soft, lost. I have perfect
control of my medium. That's all you have to practice. Hard, soft, lost
edges. Or to make it even simpler, hard, graphic
shapes of color of value and gradations.
of color or value and you're done. The only thing
you might want to add into it is a textural difference. Learning to get textural
differences. The difference between burlap say and flesh.
Or oiled leather boots and
cobblestone walkways or trees
against clouds. You might want to have a technical difference between those
but you wouldn't have to. Many artists don't. The impressionists don't. Sargent doesn't.
Sargent, Zoran, those guys. Everything's these fluid, buttery strokes.
The strokes are all about the same. They usually go down the long axis.
They're buttery, rich, lovely, fluid, you
could scrape them off and eat them kinda strokes. But they all look about the same, whether
it's hair or satin dress or rock
field or cloudscape, whatever it is. Generally the strokes are fairly similar.
So you wouldn't have to create any differences but you might well want to.
So that's the good news. We can break the wholer
complicated world into three simple
values. And then render it in three value
ranges. And our real tool for rendering
is gradation. We call it gradation. And
it's just the zigzag technique. Practice that
with whatever medium you're working with or with all the mediums you're working with.
Zigzag. The tighter you
bunch up those zigzags, the more lovely the
They can be painterly or you can come back and really
notice how I really scrub it. I might have to go back and forth a little bit
to work it out. Look at how quickly I get a near perfect
gradation. So not very
hard. Just takes a little practice. Just getting to know how much pigment
is in your pencil - so how hard you have to push down - or how much pigment
to put on your brush. If you overload it, put too much pigment on the brush
it's gonna be a muddy mess. If you don't put enough pigment on the brush
it'll kinda drag and skip across. If it's too wet with your
oil painting medium that'll give you trouble. If it's too dry, old paint sitting on the
pallet for too long - so there'll be a natures of material
learning curve with this stuff. And we'll go through with oil paint and
eventually probably some watercolor. And charcoal. I'll do
a lot of different techniques in various lectures where I'll show you the tricks
of the trade for the different mediums. But the basic mechanics, basic
thinking is the same. Just takes some getting to know it. So
gradation is lovely for softening edges
to make it feel rounder is what gradation does. I took something -
I took what was originally a disk shape
and my adding gradation I rounded
into an egg shape. An elliptical shape.
So gradation softens and rounds the edges.
And let's look back here. Same value, same plane.
Different value, different plane. I broke it into a two value system for
any particular object, in this case the spaceship, and then if I want it to be
rounder I add gradation. Look at what it does to that corner.
It rounds off that corner and makes it more curved.
I can round it off a little bit so it's like a carpeted stair step or
I can round it off completely like an egg, a breakfast
egg, or a spaceship in the sky. So
gradation is another way of getting roundness.
If I wanna round the corners of my box logic
start with box logic. This side is light
this side is dark. Two values.
Look to my laws of light lecture to get
this more fully explained.
Box logic. And then if I wanna round it, I just add
gradation. Little bit of gradation
will round it a little bit.
A lot of gradation, or
aggressive zigzagging will round it a lot.
Not so hard huh, just takes a little bit of practice.
That's what gradation does. It does something else too. Look at what it does for us also.
If I were to put a gradation here
in the dark field
from dark, darker field, to
lighter field. It's still overall a middle
value. Middle light to middle dark, we alluded to that on the last page. The little landscape we did.
By doing a gradation there
it does a couple things. Notice how it makes
the area here more interesting and the area down here less interesting.
trick of the trade for artist is the artist knows the audience always
goes to the area of greatest value. The area of greatest value
contrast. The area of greatest contrast I should say.
The eye always goes to the area of greatest contrast. The darkest dark
against the lightest light. If I push this
much, much darker, back here.
Push my dark value even darker.
spaceship egg is gonna jump out even stronger, doesn't it? If I push
the - let's do this.
So by pushing that darker I make it
more dramatic - our eye goes to that more quickly.
If I make this even lighter, we'll go
The lightest light against the darkest dark. There's where we go. So notice what we have
now. Our eye goes here first. The lightest light against the darkest dark.
It goes here second. The darkest dark against the middle light.
Not quite as light. It goes here third. Middle
value to middle light value.
Less, dark to middle light, middle to middle light.
this area first, this area second, that area
third. Because they have less and less
contrast. Also, remember we talked about edges.
If we make it a soft edge
we look at it less quickly than a
hard edge. If we make it a -
there's a shadow of the
saucer on the
pasture. If we make it a lost edge
we don't see it at all. So
notice we see the hard edge first, the soft edge
or edges next, the third edge last.
Less contrast to our eye between lost
and soft and hard. Greatest contrast for the hard edge
lesser contrast for the soft edge, no contrast
for the lost edge, we don't
see it at all. Hard, soft, lost.
Look at what gradation can do for us also.
I can make you look at this side of the top of the spaceship
as opposed to this side of the top of the spaceship by
gradation. I'm gonna gradate this side of the
night sky much darker
this side of the night sky
a little lighter. And notice I don't have to be very good about it, it can painterly.
I don't have to be particularly facile in the way
I do it. Now we're gonna look at this
area before this area.
So maybe I want you to look over here because that's where the little hatch is gonna open and the
little guy's gonna come out in the next panel in my comic book, next painting
in my series, next moment in my movie.
The eye goes to the area of greatest contrast
and so we will
maybe we'll make this little section of the bottom of the egg
a little darker. This little section of the
field a little lighter.
And so we'll look here before we look over here or here.
Maybe because the little
beam is gonna beam down the little space guy down to the ground in a
second, we want you to look at that spot. So notice
how, by controlling my values,
and my value ranges
I can not only render the form,
I can design the form so it has great
chiaroscuro, great solid, light and shadow structure
and I can design my whole painting
I can also fine tune that design of the rendered
object or of the designed scene so that you look exactly
where I want you to look when I want you to look at. Now there's a whole
game we can play with the values here.
That we could talk about. How dark do we have to make the dark, how
light do we have to make the light. I'm gonna save that for another time. I've talked about that
in the tonal composition lectures for the figure. You can look there
and I will repeat them in context of the landscape in later lectures
here when I get to it.
Different value, different plane. Three value
system for and a big environment
and then three value ranges when I want to render or design that environment.
When I manipulate the values in such a way that it makes a
composition work more fully, more beautifully,
more to my liking, we call that a tonal composition.
It's a tonal composition. All we care
is it's playing with values and value ranges. It's playing with a simple
idea of different value, different plane. Different value, different plane
to create turning a form in levels of space.
What could be easier? A lot of things could be easier, but that makes it a little
easier at least then just rendering away and copying what you see
and hoping for the best. So that's tonal composition.
Three values, three value ranges. Now what
happens if we have a more complicated scene like we had earlier with the
sky and the trees and all that. Let's go back to that because frankly
when we do it as simply as I did it we're just creating a little still life
in effect. We can play with some aerial perspective
ideas as we'll talk about a little bit later
to create greater effect of space but really it's just a little still life. That could be
an egg on a table. I said it was a spaceship but it could have been an egg on a table or
a head poking out of a parka or whatever.
So what if we have a more complicated set up?
do that with this. As we had before. We had a tree
and bushes and ground.
And we said if we can make this three values
or three value ranges.
we can create a nice sense here.
Notice what happens
our middle values and our
dark values or our middle values and our light values can start to group
together. I've tried to create five levels of space. Let's go back to our
little kid set up. Here's our tree line
with the ground cover that's darkest.
And then here's our mountain ranges
which are middle value and our cloud scape
which is a light value and then
our sky which is a middle dark value.
And the middle value and the middle dark
value and the dark value started to compete a little bit. Well we can solve
that somewhat by forcing
my value range to a more extreme value
range. Nothing wrong with that potentially, although
it could really destroy the beautiful
subtlety. The misty morning set up, the soft ambient
light that's happening in a sunrise or a sunset. If we go real
dark and real light, real extreme with our values
it might kill some of that soft,
calm, sedate feel. It might seem
aggressive in value and so it might take away the feel of
lovely, pastoral set up. But we can do that.
So here is my middle value for the
My middle light for the pasture and my middle
But even by using my full range
of values here, it gets a little murky
with my mountains and
sky. If I put the sky any darker it's gonna
compete with my dark forest. And right now my dark forest is looking pretty
ominous. It's not as inviting and lovely as I would have.
So that's a problem. Now I can back off these values a little bit because I'm gonna
plug in colors. Bright blue here, purple mountain majesty here,
lovely green here, maybe deeper, darker verdes
and browns in here. And the color's gonna help separate.
But still my value is gonna suffer. So we're
gonna do exactly what we did when we rendered. Values,
two values to turn the form. Value ranges. We're gonna add
gradation. Gradation helps to round the forms, it
helps to pinpoint
the most important contrast and
play down the less important contrast in your painting through gradation as we saw last time.
It can also do two other things. By doing gradation
notice I can go ahead and make this pasture
the same middle value as the mountains.
Up here. And through gradation
let it get lighter and lighter and lighter as it gets in
contact with the dark foreground image.
So the mountains and
the pasture can be lost in a soft
or lost edge and become the same or very similar
values and then gradate into a separation.
Like so. Now overall the
pasture is still lighter than the mountains but
through gradation I've helped to separate the
pasture from the mountains, grouped the pasture with the distant
land. And notice I put in a gradation on that
plane, that pasture in space is gonna help lay it in space. So if I add
to a plane in space,
the floor of your room,
or the walls or ceilings of your room or the
pasture, ground in a landscape, do a little gradation there
then it's gonna help lay it in space.
It's gonna be a visual movement that suggests perspective.
So I can go ahead and push this blue sky very blue up here
and let it get lighter and mistier as it comes down to the
horizon. And often times there'll be a pictorial reason
to do that. The fact is, skies usually do get lighter,
more misty, more atmospheric, when they
to the ground there. So we could get a real light, pale
blue here and a very dark, rich blue up there. We can gradate
mountains. Little darker there.
Let them fade out there.
We can make this part
of the mountain more interesting than this part. And so I'll gradate the
clouds through the rendering of them or the design
of them so they're very, very close in
value to the pasture. Maybe the morning fog hasn't lifted yet.
So cloud and mountain and pasture
all start to get very close in value. And look at how it's starting to get more and more
atmospheric. These become not the same but
similar value through gradation.
We can bring out some of the
values of this foreground to make it less
interesting separation from the pasture. So I don't look over here as quickly
I look over here.
Like that. Pushing the light of the pasture against the dark of the trees. I
can lose some of the separation
or even all the separation of the trees from the blue sky.
By picking up the
light side of the trees or just the lighter range
of the trees. So now this is all lost here. What a shame
we've lost that. But look at what's left over.
That comes out more strongly. Now don't make the mistake of making it the
same value and then drawing a different value line to
separate it. That can be an interesting effect but in terms of
design it's still gonna look like this. It's still gonna go flat.
You're gonna lose interest there. I'm losing interest there because
I wanna lose interest there. That's the reason to do it. Don't lose interest there
by mistake. So we don't wanna use line to
separate, we can use line for effect. A rim
light, or a stylization of a line in a painting.
But we don't wanna use it thinking it's gonna substitute for good tonal
composition. So I don't wanna do a line so much
there as I wanna do a gradation or a flat
silhouetted shape to separate out.
And by doing these levels of
space and value ranges, rather than just flat
values we can create all sorts of atmospheric
perspectives, sense of going back into the depth, the atmosphere, the
fog, the blue, the clear blue, and create
lost and found interests that keep the audience
involved. Keep them interested. So that's tonal
composition. That's gradation and that's setting up several
levels of space so that they still separate nicely.
Then once you plug your value, all your beautiful rendering, your careful
drawing if there is careful drawing in there. It's gonna get even better and more
sophisticated, more separated. It's gonna show off more. But that initial
statement is gonna give you what you need. Now once
we get several levels of space, we might
let's say we have the dark
birds flying in.
The crows coming to the cornfield let's say.
They might be exactly the same value as something here, even though they're way, way
away. Way, way, away. I'll have to write that one down.
They're way, way away. But because they're so separated by
space, there is the trees, all the pasture,
all the mountains, most of the clouds, before we get to those critters. Even though
they're exactly the same value, let's say, as the trees, the foreground
front. They feel separate. Also they're drawn
differently. They're bird shapes as opposed to tree and foliage shapes.
And the scale's radically different. They're little because they're far away. In fact they
get smaller and smaller as they recede. And so that saves
us. The audience does that work for us. So once we set up our
several levels of space, our - at least two, foreground, background,
but maybe three, four, or five levels of space. Once we start hitting
four and especially five and especially, especially six, we're gonna
find we run out of values or value ranges, we'll have to start repeating. But if they're
well separate or if you don't care if they group because you wanna
simplify an area, like we've done here, then you're still in good shape.
But if they need to separate then you need to -
if they need to separate in value you've got to separate them in distance in your
composition and hopefully in scale in your
composition. And we'll talk more about depth of field
which involves the scale and
value ranges, all that kinda stuff,
when we get into full composition talk. But that'll get us started here.
Incidentally in film they call this
a rack focus. If I were to make the dark
for Aladdin let's say, the Disney Aladdin movie,
the same, or almost the same,
value is a dark, ominous
sand storm, let's say, that's coming up on him.
Poor little Aladdin here.
That's called a rack focus. I'm taking the
foreground and or the background and using it to frame
let's say - let's take him outta here actually
and put him here
with another couple characters
there. I'm using
the foreground and background to frame the middle ground because that's where the action is.
Or I'll use the foreground and middle ground to frame the background
because that's where the - at first we barely see this
angel of death coming and then as it comes out
more and more clear and the moonlight strikes it and it shines up and we see the
villain then it jumps out at us. So we'll use the
or levels of space to frame the level of space that's most important to us.
And we can take our pick. We can have the werewolf hiding in the woods
and we wanna frame that. We can have the hero in the middle ground surrounded by
environment and opposition in front and
behind, we can have all the busy stuff in front
and the meek little protagonist in back - way in the
background, trying to be heard. It can be any of those things and you can see how
it starts to - those choices start to tell a story potentially
and that's, again, that art is an idea. the
landscape is an excuse to talk about something bigger. The story
in our film or the feeling in our heart, or whatever the heck it is.
So anyway, that is tonal composition, that is
value in a nutshell. We'll talk a little bit in the next
lecture about the value of rendering, how to render some volume
some three dimensional volume in our work and then we'll move on from there. We'll
see you next time.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview45sNow playing...
1. Intro to drawing landscapes14m 38sNow playing...
1. Intro to drawing landscapes Part 214m 31sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Working with structure17m 33s
3. Structure and form14m 20s
4. Structure and form (continued)15m 13s
5. Construction18m 14s
6. Value & gradation15m 18s
7. Value & gradation (continued)14m 58s
8. Working with gradation14m 47s
9. Values & ranges16m 9s