Saturday, February 05, 2011

Pan Pastel + Charcoal = a Tonalist Drawing

Old Saybrook Marsh, 12.5 x 8.75, charcoal, pan pastel on handmade paper, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2011

I used to not like drawing as much as I do now. I found it frustrating. Now I find it both exciting and relaxing. I always knew what the problem was years ago when drawing was not a favorite activity. It was a values problem. 

It was an inability to understand how to group large masses of related values to make them work in a composition, it was a lack of experience creating subtle shifts in value. It was also a lack of knowledge. I really didn't understand how to separate overlapping masses of similar values.

It was always so much easier to make things different colors to separate compositional elements. So I balked at drawing in monochrome. It was boring, it was restrictive, it wasn't as expressive as color, yadda, yadda yadda, when all along I knew that I just hadn't really mastered the use of values. So I became a colorist and didn't worry much about values.  I have a very intuitive color sense and have always been able to easily mix colors and I could make paintings with lovely oooooh and ahhhh colors.

When I began to paint outside, en plein air, I was in for a rude awakening. No matter how exquisite your color combinations you will never be able to approximate the sensation of sunlight and shadow without a good understanding and command of values.

Now of course, I'm talking about painterly drawings that rely on masses of tones, not linear drawings that rely on draftsmanship and measured accuracy. (Actually, I still find that kind of boring, but maybe someday....)

Somewhere along the journey of getting my values straight I fell in love with the infinitely subtle, sophisticated beauty of value.This, I think, is precisely why I find drawing so relaxing now. It's always more pleasant to do something when you know what the heck your doing and understand how it works. But the gentle, delicate push and pull of minute shifts in tone (or value, same thing, different term) is a lovely slow dance of adjustments to get just the effect you're looking for, be it the rounding of a form, volume in a cloud, the recession of a distant plain, of the arrangement of overlapping clumps of tree foliage or rocks on a shore, the game of a little bit darker, a little bit lighter is a fun one to play.

1 comment:

brendathour said...

I love your drawing, it is very pleasing to the eye. Values are something I am working on too.