Artlark Information 14th October 2010  “Tone”

Following on from the most important element in painting, texture, here is the second most important element: tone.

I was recently downloading my photos onto the computer, and had a momentary burst of frustration at how exciting the thumbnails views look, while the enlargements seem mediocre; until I turned my mind to wondering why that is:

It occurred to me that while we are happily painting all the details as well as the main “furniture” of our subject matter within our paintings, we are already focussing within the picture plane, assuming that the illusion of space within this picture plane will develop a sense of “wholeness” and integration by the end of the painting process. Surely though, the overall sense of whole space is the first issue we should address? We frequently start with a coloured ground to reduce the illusion of space, and we adjust our colours to close in the edges with warm colours, or create cooler edges for a greater panoramic effect. But surely the wonderful possibilities of superb colour graduations and the illusion of depth they create is too important an opportunity or obligation even to leave to chance, or to the end of the painting?

I had been dazzled by the wonderful transparent succession of browns within the surface of boats on the seafront, and copy images like this rather brainlessly. Shouldn’t the sea and beach be painted tonally to create great space, leaving the objects possibly flat?

It seems to me that when we look at the thumbnail images we see the subtle graduations in tonal colour of the sky or beach, while once the image is enlarged we only see graduation in colour within the details, and not their surroundings.