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Old 07-31-2006, 12:02 AM
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WFMartin WFMartin is offline
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A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

TONES (VALUES), AND THEIR APPLICATION IN THE PAINTING OF FINE ART

WFMartin (Bill)

MY BACKGROUND

Everything we see in our daily lives has three dimensions. We artists—the painters and drawers, at least—are very often called upon to express a three-dimensional subject by placing paint upon canvas in only two dimensions. That is where a knowledge of tones is necessary, and I’m devoting this workshop to the practical knowledge and application of values—the lights, the darks, and everything in between.

I cannot lay claim to as many art credentials as some on this site, but I do have quite an extensive background in related subjects, whose applications quite easily transfer over to the fine arts field. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial education. I taught a graphic arts high school course for one year, after which I entered the lithographic trade, where I quickly gravitated to that of a color separator. In those days the job classification was that of “color cameraman”, and the job was that of photographically separating pieces of art copy and fine art into four printing films, each of which produced a plate for 4-color process printing, using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks..

I’ve held many fine and priceless works of art in my hands, as a lithographic color cameraman, including an original Renoir, a Durer etching, and a Rubens, as well as various contemporary artists’ works, at various times. Today, most color separating is accomplished by high-end, drum scanners, which analyze color transparencies, thereby creating digital files of images. Shortly before I retired from the litho trade, we discontinued the use of film, and began dealing strictly with digital files, either scanned by us, or with those supplied by clients to us. Today, lithographic plates are made on computerized processors, from digital files. There is literally no more photography as we once knew it, in the trade—and no more film.

I am retired, now, and have been painting for over 20 years. I began painting while still employed, as an escape from my daily work, which required me to do things regarding photo retouching and color correcting that I would never have done as an artist. During my career in color separation, I operated several high end scanners—a Hell, a Crosfield Magnascan, and several Dainippon Screen scanners, as well as performing retouching and color correcting in Photoshop. I’ve sold many paintings, and have displayed, and sold, in a couple of local galleries. This is a link to my website, which contains many examples of oil paintings, watercolors, and a few trompe’ l’oeil wall paintings done in acrylic paint, as well: http://www.wfmartin.com/

I have had two articles published in lithographic trade magazines—coincidentally enough, one on tone control in shooting halftones on a copy camera.

During the 40-some years I worked in the litho trade, I also taught my craft at vocational school level, on and off, as evening classes. And, many years later, I had the good fortune to have taught 4 fall semesters of applied color theory for the lithographic process at Arizona State University. The goal of the course I taught at ASU was the scientific engineering of a 4-color separating system, based upon scientific analysis of the printing process used in the reproduction process. Basically, the concept of my teaching discouraged the usual “cookbook” approach to performing color separations, in favor of performing separations that were more scientifically custom-tuned to match the particular lithographer’s printing capabilities.

I always wanted to immediately put my students at ease with the realization that the knowledge of the behavior of color reproduction was something that anyone could grasp, so every semester at ASU, when I opened the class, I would explain to my students that there truly were only 3 things that one had to “know” or “manipulate”, in order to produce acceptable color separations, capable of being successfully printed on a press, and those three “things” were color correction, tone correction (or placement), and gray balance.

Artists, who paint with oils or watercolors only need to know two of those three things: color, and tone placement. Gray balance is a rather involved function of the printing process, dealing with halftone screening, in conjunction with ink hues, and is not something the average fine artist needs to know.

In dealing with tones in fine art, I like to use the term, “value”, because, by definition, that is one of the actual dimensions of color. Hue, Value, and Chroma are the three dimensions of color, so I prefer to stick with the term, “value” when describing a light, medium, or dark “version” of a subject, or the colors within a subject.

I believe it often helps an artist to get a handle on exactly what it is that we are doing in the creation of any work of two-dimensional art (paintings or drawings). Each time we pick up the tools of our trade—our oil paints, our graphite pencils, our watercolors, we automatically set about to reproduce the values of some “original”, using a medium (oil paint, watercolor, etc.) that may have a completely different value range than our original exhibits.

Stop and ponder, for a minute. We are taking paint, contained in tubes, smearing it on a canvas or board, and expecting to “match”, in appearance, the three-dimensional “thing”, or photo that is in front of us! That is an absolutely incredible concept! Well, often the truth of the matter is, we DON’T match our “original”—but, we DO create the IMPRESSION that we have matched it. And, that impression, if done well, is all we need to have achieved success.

And, a sound knowledge of values is often the key to achieving such success.

We in the litho trade often kidded each other whenever a client would request that we “match” an original, because that is very seldom possible to do. The values represented in a transparency or a work of fine art was invariably always well beyond the scope of our printing process. In our line of work the choice often seemed to be, “Should we literally ‘match’ this questionable looking thing (specifically when furnished with a transparency as our copy), or should we simply make a ‘pretty picture’?”

Our choice was usually “Make a pretty picture”. We, as artists, are faced with such decisions all the time, and the choice for us is nearly always—make a pretty picture, rather than necessarily matching the original in front of us!

THE STUDY OF TONE DENSITY—A TRULY MEASURABLE ITEM

Now I come to the point where artists and lithographic color separators often part ways. The subject of “density” as related to values, is often misunderstood. Or worse yet many artists may not even realize that it exists. It is not necessary to commit this following information to memory, and I, myself, am FAR from being considered a mathematician, but here’s the definition of density as it relates to reflective values. Density is the logarithm of the reciprocal of the reflectance. Whoa!! Enough of that stuff! I don’t need to know THAT to paint a picture! Well, no you don’t, but it’s handy to understand, and who knows whom you may impress with that knowledge in the future?

Density is simply the way to ACCURATELY MEASURE the amount of light reflectance off of a painted (or printed, or drawn) surface. The measurement of density is obtained by using an optical instrument, called a densitometer. The key word here is “accurately”. It is like a yardstick for measuring reflected (or transmitted) light. It is not subject to intuition nor interpretation by the person (artist) making the determination. Nor does it fluctuate from day to day. Let’s say you have a “white” area on a painting or photo, and somewhere else on the same photo there is a gray area that is reflecting only ½ the light that the white area was reflecting. 1 divided by 2 = .50, and .50 is the “reciprocal” of ½. The logarithm of .50 is .30. “Point three oh” is the correct pronunciation of the resulting number, and truly represents ½ of the light that is being reflected from your white area. You cannot calculate a “log” (logarithm), as you would a multiplication or addition problem—you must look it up in a book of tables. Photographers often commit a couple of neutral density filters to memory: .30, and 1.00, because they represent half the light, and one-tenth the light, respectively. Other than that, those logs gotta’ be looked up!

Densities of .30, .60, and .90 each represent ½ of the amount of reflectance of the one preceding it. So, a density of .60 represents ¼ the amount of light that the white area is reflecting. Density, .90 represents 1/8 of the light being reflected off the white area.

I am explaining this because whenever you notice numbers such as these printed alongside a commercial grayscale, they usually represent density, rather than just some arbitrary numbering system. You do NOT need to know this in order to understand the use of densities for creating fine art. “Whew”, you’re saying. I agree. But, to me, who has worked at using and teaching this concept for over 40 years, these numbers are as meaningful as a yardstick, and extrordinarily useful, as well.

I will be using the medium of traditional oil paint for this workshop, because I feel that it most easily exhibits the value attributes that I feel are most easily manipulated and understood for easy control.

Oil painting is probably one of the mediums in which the densities (values) of the originals can, actually, be achieved. I’m not really sure. But, the fact of the matter is, whether we can, or not, makes very little difference. Just as in the lithographic trade, we artists can effectively create the IMPRESSION that we have “matched” the original by some intelligent value manipulation.

So, let’s begin our journey into the study and application of tone values, as it applies to the classical style of oil painting.

I will be adding to this thread, as my workshop continues.......
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Last edited by WFMartin : 07-31-2006 at 12:10 AM.
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Old 07-31-2006, 12:08 AM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Great job, Bill! It's such an important subject! I'm looking forward to hearing more!

Barb Solomon
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Old 07-31-2006, 12:39 AM
Nickel Nickel is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

A big thank you Bill for doing this workshop! I am looking forward to
learning.

Nickel
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Old 07-31-2006, 02:10 AM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Thank you for your time and knowledge Bill!
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Old 07-31-2006, 09:46 AM
Lap3 Lap3 is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Bill, I just finished the John Cox workshop and have made some sense of what he presented there. I am seeing the improvements in my work by becoming more aware of the values and intensity of my colors (thank goodness). I am very grateful that you are going to take the time to enlighten us further.

I had a wonderful time looking at your website and would love to absorb any mentoring that you could provide. I really look forward to this workshop.

Cheryl
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Old 07-31-2006, 10:41 AM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Wow, first John, then now you Bill!!!!

This is so cool and very much appreciated.

THANKS BILL!!!!
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Old 07-31-2006, 11:40 AM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Thank you, Everyone.

I really do feel that values are quite important to the creation of the classical style of fine art. The painting of realistic appearing images nearly seems to demand it.

I may have a few different approaches to the subject of tone values, and perhaps once I have offered my suggestions, a few others may see fit to give them a try. There are so many ways in which to approach such a topic, and we all seem to have our own methods. And, they all seem to work.

I'll do my best to explain my methods, while working on the creation of a particular subject that I have selected as an example. This should be a really fun time!

I'll be posting my next instruction unit today, just a little later.

Thanks for this opportunity.

Bill
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Old 07-31-2006, 11:56 AM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

After Bill post his instructions, I'm going to be starting a gallery thread for everybody's version. I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone does!

Barb Solomon
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Old 07-31-2006, 03:42 PM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

This is wonderful information so far. I look forward to the rest. I'm just hoping that my brain will translate it all into better art.
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Old 07-31-2006, 04:57 PM
designergigi designergigi is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Very exciting! I've been interested in this for some time. Count me in!

Thank you for doing this. It's very gracious of you to give us your time.

Gigi
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Old 07-31-2006, 07:01 PM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

A COMMERCIAL GRAYSCALE



This is an example of a commercially available grayscale. It has many density steps, and those steps are indicated with numbers, which are the densities of the values on the scale. Beneath the density steps are the 6 colors that comprise every color in existence, that can be made by pigment—the three primaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow, and their mixes of red, blue, and green. The little white, triangles taped to it, represent specific value areas that were important to us doing the 4-color separations.

There’s truly not a color in existence that is not one of these colors, or some offshoot of one of them. Brown? Just a very grayed version of red. Chartreuse? Just a slightly dirty, very light version of green. Orange? Just a slightly yellow version of red. I’m sure you get the point.

A DESATURATED (OR “GRAYSCALED”) VERSION OF THE GRAYSCALE



Using Photoshop, I have created a desaturated or “grayscaled” version of this same step tablet. It is interesting to notice how the various colors are displayed as a monochromatic version of what had previously been a full-color image. They are not all the same density, with yellow exhibiting a very light density, while blue is represented by a very dark density. The densities of green, cyan, red, magenta, etc., are all scattered between these two extremes. These are known as “actinic densities”, and represent each color’s version of how it would appear, if viewed monochromatically, to white light. It is profoundly handy that this takes place whenever you convert a full-color image to a grayscaled or desaturated image in Photoshop, because that offers you a very precise value configuration, which accurately represents all the colors of your entire reference photo.

The point of the matter is that you are now faced with a medium (oil paint) with which you would like to “match” the values of your original (perhaps a photo). The obvious value limitations of your medium are the darkest value that can be attained by it (perhaps some tube mixture of a black and blue or umber) , and …..white, no matter what the value range of the original scene or photo (or value scale) might be. Out of sheer necessity, your painting will absolutely have to fit within that value range, whatever that may be, simply because your medium has established its own limitation regarding values.

Now that we understand the value limitation of our process—our paints—we must decide how to best reproduce the scene (or photo) before us.

Let’s see how we would approach the painting of a monochrome (single color/gray) photo that we are going to use as a reference. In this instance, we’d like to do our best to reproduce it, without modifying it. But first, we need a suitable reference photo.

CREATING THE REFERENCE PHOTO

The photo I’m using for my reference is one that I obtained from our own reference image library on Wet Canvas, and I have already checked with the owner of the image to be sure that I may use this image freely, without fear of copyright infringement. Her answer was that I can use it. It is a photo of a Butterfly Orchid, and was submitted to the reference image library by bairam. I’m hoping that she will look in on this workshop. I selected this photo for two reasons: First, I am truly eager to paint another flower, since I made such a nice sale with my purple iris at a local show, and second, it is the sort of photo for which a value study will be quite interesting. Values seem to be the most important aspect of this subject, rather than colors. That, alone, makes it a prime example for our study of values.

This is the color photo that I will be using for my reference:


In Photoshop, I size and crop the image to the exact proportion of that of my canvas. Since my canvas is 16” x 20”, I made my photo 8” x 10”. After saving, and printing out my color photo on high quality photo paper, I then use the “desaturate” function in Photoshop, creating a gray version, and save that file. I then print this file out, also, on high quality photo paper. I didn’t have to settle for it being perfectly neutral, either. That’s why I use the “desaturate” function in Photoshop, instead of the “grayscale” function. “Desaturate” maintains the image in full color, even though it is gray, thereby allowing me to tweak my Red, Green, and Blue curves to more closely approximate my mix of Ivory Black and Raw Umber paint. By tweaking the curves, I can turn it to a warmer neutral--which is exactly what I did to the photo you see here.

Now, this is my “desaturated” version of this photo:


While I have my image in Photoshop, I also lighten my gray photo, and with my line tool, I grid it in ½” increments. I save this file, also, and print it out on cheap, letter sized paper.


This grid is 20 units wide, and 16 units high, and will match my 16” x 20” canvas, in its proportions. The image above is my gridded version, printed out on cheap computer paper.

CANVAS PREPARATION

Now that I have my reference printed out as both a full-color photo, and a warm gray photo, please allow me to demonstrate the method that I use to begin nearly every painting that I do. After purchasing an acrylic primed canvas, I first sand it, using 150 grit sandpaper. I then apply a coat of Grumbacher 525 Acrylic Primer. Grumbacher 525 Acrylic Primer comes in a jar, and is nearly as thick as plaster. To make it useable, I thin it with water, until it is about the consistency of thick cream. To do this, I scoop out some with a putty knife, and put it into a separate jar. I then add water, and stir with the putty knife, until it is sufficiently thinned. I apply it with a small, interior trim brush, and after I apply it, I allow it to dry, and then sand again. I repeat this, until I have applied enough coats of acrylic primer so that the weave of the canvas is nearly eliminated. I give it one final sanding, and wipe the dust off with a rag dampened with water.

PREPARING MY DRAWING TO FULL SIZE

Piecing two sheets of 14” x 17” tracing paper together edge to edge, I draw a grid onto this paper, the same exact size as my canvas, and grid it in 1 inch increments. I then transfer my 8” x 10” gridded photo to my tracing paper, by simply drawing that which is evident in each square.

This shows my gridded drawing on tracing paper:


I have applied several coats of acrylic primer to the surface of my store-bought canvas, and have given it a final sanding with 150 grit sandpaper. I removed the remaining dust by using a paper towel, dampened with water. My canvas is ready to accept paint.

PAINTING THE IMPRIMATURA

When it is thoroughly dry, it is now ready to accept paint, and the first oil paint that I apply is an imprimatura. To make this color, I mix equal portions of Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna, with enough Permalba White to make it lighter and fairly opaque. I use a medium whose ingredients are 1 part Stand Oil to 5 parts Turpentine. It is very thin, and very lean (more solvent than oil). An imprimatura accomplishes two things: it provides a nice tone, so I don’t have to begin working on a stark, white canvas. It also sizes the surface of the acrylic priming so that my next application of oil paint does not absorb into the acrylic surface.

This is the appearance of my imprimatura:


I apply my paint mixture, using medium and a 3/4 inch soft, sable (or sable imitation) brush. When I have applied all the paint that I have mixed on my palette, I then take a 1" soft, sable brush, and go over the entire canvas, using criss-cross strokes in a "whisking" or beating fashion, to totally eliminate brush strokes and brush marks left in by my paint application. A smooth surface after each painting session of these first few layers is our goal. Impasto is fine for the more final layers, but for these beginning underpainting layers, smoothness is the key, both in appearance, and in actual paint texture.

TRANSFERRING THE DRAWING

We are now ready to transfer the sketched image to the surface of the imprimatura. To do this, I apply soft, vine charcoal to the BACK of the tracing paper containing my drawn, pencil image. I lay it on a light background, so I can see the lines of my drawing through the tracing paper. I cover with charcoal, only those areas where my lines are showing, to conserve charcoal, and help to eliminate a mess.

This is the back of my tracing paper drawing:


*Since I don't want this post to be oversize, I'll end the demonstration here for the day, and pick up the demo later, with a further post tomorrow.

I'm sure many of you can see the direction this is taking, already, and are getting a bit of an idea regarding my methods.

Please stick with me; the really fun part hasn't started, yet!

Bill
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Old 08-01-2006, 12:27 PM
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

I read about this workshop in the Oils Forum. I am really excited about what you are doing and appreciate it so much! Thanks .

Ann
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Old 08-01-2006, 01:48 PM
Granby Granby is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Hooray, I'm ready for this one. Mr. Martin - I have a drawing of my toddlers two favorite stuffed animals I am going to paint for my kids that is all ready to go, Canvas is gessoed and toned, waiting for it to dry to transfer the drawing. Would you recommend something more smooth and glossy (like a flower) for us to get the most out of this lesson?
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Old 08-01-2006, 02:03 PM
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WFMartin WFMartin is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Granby
Hooray, I'm ready for this one. Mr. Martin - I have a drawing of my toddlers two favorite stuffed animals I am going to paint for my kids that is all ready to go, Canvas is gessoed and toned, waiting for it to dry to transfer the drawing. Would you recommend something more smooth and glossy (like a flower) for us to get the most out of this lesson?

The study and applications of values lends itself to nearly any subject, and so does the use of a grisaille underpainting for the purpose of glazing colors over it.

I would think that your stuffed animal subject would be just fine for a project such as this.

Bill
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Old 08-01-2006, 07:21 PM
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Annapurna Annapurna is offline
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Re: A Tone/Value Management workshop with Bill Martin

I'm in, and I'm excited about this workshop thank you Bill. This means so much to find this site of generous teachers and contributors... cannot express how wonderful for me, living far from a school. I'm commissioned to do two portraits, first time, and I know this will help me feel calmer. I use the grayscale, being a commercial artist in another incarnation 40 years ago, but now the desaturate...oh my, more than a learning curve I'm feeling like I've just begun ascending the Matterhorn. Lalala! Up we go.

Annapurna

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