Well, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.” Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle. This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework. Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor. I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes. A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site. Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register (501- 851-4344). I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.
Using a monochromatic color scheme is one of the best ways to understand the use of value. “Mono” means “one”, and “chroma” means “color,” so all you can use is one color with various tints, tones and shades for your painting. If you add white to a hue (another name for ‘color’), it is called a “tint;” if you add gray, it is called a “tone;” and if you add black, it is called a “shade.” So all you have is the darkness and lightness of the color for variety. Sometimes I like to do monochromatic underpaintings for my pastel works – the underneath color sets the mood for the rest of the painting.
To further complicate things, every color has its own value. For instance, yellow is a light value, purple is a dark value. Greens and oranges are middle values. You can see this best by looking at colors through a red glass (or a green glass if looking at red hues). You will be able to see the relative value of the colors that way.
Here is the color wheel image sectioned off so that only a blue-green hue is selected. You can see that the tints and tones are much muted.
In the example below, I have used the same subject as in the complementary color example, but with a monochromatic color scheme of blue with whites, grays, and blacks. The time of day seems to be early evening, with perhaps a little light left in the sky.
Try this exercise if you like and let me know how it turns out. I highly recommend the book by Stephen Quiller, COLOR CHOICES; MAKING COLOR SENSE OUT OF COLOR THEORY, which I used in my exercises.
Trees are diverse — their trunks, limbs and branches, foliage are all dependent on their type. The best way to learn how to draw trees is to draw trees, especially bare trees in the winter. Learn the skeletons first. It takes a lot of observation and practice. Begin to examine how branches grow out of the trunks. Where is the widest part of the trunk? The trunk of a tree is not straight up and down; many are distorted by the wind and natural elements. It’s much more interesting when the shape of the trunk changes direction. Trunks are not always larger at the base either, unless they are cypress trees. Roots serve to pull in food and give support. They get thinner as the tree grows taller and leaves congregate toward the outside air and light. But they don’t get thinner until they begin to branch. the branches follow the same pattern. Each year is a different growth spurt, so branches and limbs grow at angles and not as ribbons or curves.
It’s useful to use varied pressures while drawing tree trunks with a pencil. Use the pencil on point and on the edge to simulate the rough texture of the bark. Start from the ground up and “grow” the tree. Watch the direction of the light. Use light limbs against dark foliage and vice versa. Always look for the sky holes. The value of the sky is darker inside the sky holes than the rest of the sky behind the tree. It’s a good idea to draw/paint a branch or limb inside the sky holes — it says “tree” effectively.
Think in terms of gesture drawing. What is the action of the tree? This is the axis. If it has leaves, think of it as a solid shape. Which side of the tree is the darkest? As a solid object, it has form and value. It’s darker where you can see through to the trunk, and the trunk darkens as it moves up. The most important detail is the negative space.
For foliage, always think in terms of masses. TDo not, I repeat, do not start with little leaf-life strokes before you’ve defined the clumps of foliage. IF YOU CAN’T COUNT THE LEAVES, DON’T DRAW THEM INDIVIDUALLY. SUGGEST THEM INSTEAD. Always place some foliage in front of the trunk, not always behind. The only places that you can suggest leaf shapes are on the edge of the tree facing the light, or in the negative spaces of the sky holes.
Warm light bounces from the ground to the underneath planes of the tree. Trunks are cooler where they face a clearing and warmer when they reflect a forest bed. Use yellows and pale greens for sun-struck foliage and vary the hues in the foliage shadows.
One of my strongest concerns in making a painting is CONTRAST. Contrast can be achieved in many different ways:
1. CONTRAST OF VALUE: This is the opposition between white and black and their immediate gradations when mixed with various colors. If a painting or drawing has high value contrast, it pr0bably has at least 6 different variations from light to dark. Strong light or sunlight makes for a wide range of contrast, while cloudy days and diffused light makes for a limited range of contrast.
2. CONTRAST OF HUE: This is the contrast of hues (colors) in the same values against each other. For example, the action of a bright red on a bright green background causes optical effects resulting from the contrast. If a painting has light values,but different hues, it is said to be high key. If it has dark values, but different hues, it is said to be low key.
3. CONTRAST OF INTENSITY: This is the contrast of a clean color against a dirty one, or intense color against neutral. A little bit of color at its maximum intensity (strength) against a grayed down hue produces a very effective type of harmony.
4. CONTRAST OF TRANSPARENCY: Color can be transparent like colored glass, semi-transparent like cloudy glass, or opaque like a thick layer of house paint. Transparent color like the stained glass of a cathedral, is the most powerful of all. In the same way, transparent paint is more powerful than an opaque passage. This works best in watercolor, of course.
5. CONTRAST OF TEMPERATURE: Consciously or unconsciously, we are aware some colors are warm (red, yellow, and orange) while others are cold (blue, green). A single hue may vary in temperature: a purplish blue is warmer than a greenish blue, and a purplish red is cooler than an orange red. To identify whether a hue is warm or cool, think about how much red or blue is in it. Warm colors have certain emotional overtones that differ from the emotions evoked by cool colors, so use thus principle when you are seeking to imply a certain mood.
6. CONTRAST OF COMPLEMENTS: Colors which are diametrically opposite one another on the color wheel are called complementaries, and they have the power to bring out the maximum effectiveness of their opposites when placed side by side. Thus, yellow will emphasize an adjacent purple; red reinforces a nearby green, etc. The remarkable fact about complementaries is that the nerves in the eye will create an illusion of the opposite color. Therefore, a bright patch of red will seem to suffuse the surrounding area with green.
HERE’S ANOTHER OF DAVID PAUL COOK’S FUN AND INFORMATIVE SKETCHBOOK IDEAS: INSTEAD OF MAKING A COLOR WHEEL TO UNDERSTAND COLOR THEORY, DRAW A SHORT TREE WITH SPREAD OUT BRANCHES. MAKE THIS LARGE ENOUGH TO FILL YOU YOUR SKETCHBOOK PAGE. THEN, USING WATERCOLOR, MARKERS, OR COLORED PENCILS, PROGRESS FROM YELLOW ON THE LEFT TO YELLOW-ORANGE TO ORANGE TO ORANGE-RED TO RED TO RED-VIOLET TO VIOLET TO BLUE-VIOLET TO BLUE TO BLUE-GREEN TO GREEN TO YELLOW-GREEN AND FINALLY TO YELLOW AGAIN. THAT WAY YOU GET ALL TWELVE COLORS INTO A MORE INTERESTING SHAPE!