The goal of this week's class was to force modelling in the darks, creating instant lost edges, and using temperature shifts to differentiate planes rather than value shifts.
I asked my students to arrange still life set ups with direct light, high contrast, and to set themselves up in the middle, or toward the dark side. Then I instructed them to mix a ground that was neutral, value about 3 1/2, and to tone the whole board. I made my ground with viridian and cadmium red light.
The students then wiped out all of the lights, using solvent and a clean brush or paper towel. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, drawing by wiping away, but pretty quickly, they began to see great results. Simply, all that was in shadow was the ground, and all that was in light was wiped away. If they wiped too vigorously, they could just scrub in some more of the ground color and wipe again with more accuracy.
Tricky discipline at first not to see too much, too many values, and too much detail. But, as you can see from my top photo, form is evident immediately with careful drawing. Added benefits:
- Edges are already lost in the light and shadow before any color is applied.
- the neutral ground is both warm and cool by its nature so any color applied reads as beautifully rich. Look at the first and second images: the reds I began to add feel sumptuous on the ground.
I asked the students to model only in the shadow, generating form and looking for subtle shifts in temperature and intensity within each value. In the last few minutes they could paint in the lights with very few strokes. My students thought it was a great exercise. I think this is a terrific way to begin a painting, exercise or not.
Thanks for looking and here's a classic instrumental treat of the same name by The Surfaris.