Consider your subjcct as made up of four basic patterns of light, light gray, dark gray, and dark. One of these values should dominate the rest. In the simple diagrams above, four values in combination with four different backgrounds arc shown, in each ease with a different value predominating. The four arrangements can be varied infinitely according to subject, area, and distribution of pattern and pattern shapes. The extreme lights and darks may be reserved for highlights and dark accents. You can experiment with toned papers, chalk, and charcoal, to develop your sense of values and pattern arrangement.
quite know why or what to do about it. Quality must come from relationships which in turn express the true feeling of light.
It is evident from this that a fine painting may not always have true values, since we cannot reach them, but does have true relationships and sequences of values. It took me a long time to find this out, for how could we paint true values when we cannot reach them in pigment? This is what some of the impressionists went after, on the theory that scintillating color applied thickly would reach out into the light and so raise its value, as it unquestionably does. Therefore their pictures contained a new brilliance, which made the thinly painted, smooth pictures of their contemporaries look dull and dark by comparison. Strangely enough, the technique of using paint so it catches more light, and therefore increasing the value range of the pigment, was considered a trick when it was first tried.
Relating the sequences of values according to the way the eye would sec them often adds a feeling of elcgancc that can be achieved in no other way. I feel that much of the elegance in Sargent's portraits can be attributed to this, apart from his models and materials. Let us say that he painted elegantly the elegance of his time.
But we can, through color and values, attach elegance to the commonplace. Fart of the revolt of modern art is against the wrong sort of elegance. There is a difference between true elegance and insipid formality. We certainly cannot supplant elegance with either mediocrity or the grotesque. We cannot ignore craftsmanship in art and relegate it to the past.
There are various qualities of light itself that must be considered. Let us understand how light truly operates. When there is strong light from a concentrated or condensed source, then light casts .shadows. The more condensed the source, the |sharper the shadow; also, the closer to the source [the sharper the shadow. The more brilliant the ilight, the darker the shadow by contrast. This is kur means of obtaining brilliance, the contrast of light and shadow. But we can work only one way, which is downward from white. So to paint bright light we must use more tonal difference between light and shadow, because the darker the shadow the brighter our top values in the light appear by sheer contrast.
When the light source is not condensed but is spread over a large area—like the sky, or the north light in a window—there is diffused shadow. Shadow in diffused light docs exist, but only a sharp turn in the plane can give this type of shadow a sharp edge. On a flat surface the shadow simply diffuses into the light. When we throw light on the ceiling, the ceiling then becomes the light source of the room, and the effect is diffused light, similar to that from a cloudy sky. The rays are not condensed or concentrated as they are from the sun, from a searchlight, or even from an electric bulb, so the whole lighting becomes soft. Surface texture becomes less evident. Soft light is flattering to the face, because in it the face shows as tone rather than as plane, texture, and detail. But diffused light does the same thing to all form. Things are seen in mass and simple tone. Consistency of all the forms affected by such diffusion of light and shadow, with the proper sequence of value and color, lends elegance to the picture. Such a picture will harmonize with any interior where diffused light is used, whether it is a gallery or a home.
Diffusion also results from the use of a great many lights which intermingle their rays. This accounts for the softness of many photographic portraits. Here the photographer keeps filling in lights until cast shadows apparently disappear. The single source of light, by contrast, produces more solidity of form, since the form becomes evident through the planes of light, halftone, and shadow.
Rembrandt and other Dutch painters purposely cut their light down to a small opening in order to concentrate light where they wanted it. This was how Rembrandt caused his figures to loom mysteriously out of darkness, but such
Man with a Magnifying Glass by Rembrandt, metropolitan museum of art, new york city
The Twelfth Night Feast by Jan Stecn, the Cleveland museum of
Rembrandt and other Dutch painters purposely cut their light down to a small opening in order to concentrate light where they wanted it. This was how Rembrandt caused his figures to loom mysteriously out of darkness, but such concentration also resulted in more solid form
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