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As an art instructor, I don't wish to hide the fact that I crash and burn often. I will always be learning. So, it all gets shown here . . .good and bad. Every painting we do counts in the learning and experience process. The failures actually are much better teachers than successes. Every piece made is a teacher. That's the fun of it: the challenge to learn.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

On Value Transitions

"Crumpled Considerations"
Watercolor 30 x 22 inches
Last week a gentleman inquired about my method in making these non objective paintings.
First a sketch. A simple sketch which shows two or three simple value shapes. Those different values must, in my mind, exist in a ratio of Large, medium and tiny. Which specific value group is one size or the other doesn't matter. I happen to like a large lighter compositional shape which reaches for and touches at least three sides of the piece. The dark and medium values would surround the large shape.
Mind you, when I refer to "light," it may mean several different light values . . . . . .that is lighter than everything else in the painting.
The big trick in putting this to paint is to first isolate the large light shape by blocking it in with various glazes of paint layers. The use of glazes assures variation and, if I am careful with different techniques, texture, too. Over several days, I will gradually begin to encroach on the big light shape along the edges, gradually changing value and color. By edges and the amount of encroachment, this could mean as much as covering the majority of the shape or as little as a mere centimeter into the shape.
The work ensues until there are a series of value steps from dark to medium to medium-light to light to lightest. Those transitions and graduations of value (and color) prevent the eye from being stopped by too much, or too sudden, contrast. Only at one location will there be a strident step from dark to lightest. And that location will be in a very strategic spot.
Gradually textures are created and, toward the end, there are a few stampings and spatters in unique places to help soften or assist a sudden value transition. In short, this process requires a lot of attention to edges and contrasts.
As the piece nears completion, there are always errors and problems with balance and misplaced contrasts. Sponging out areas using various masks (or not) helps to resolve many of these issues.
Overall, the goal is to make a painting which is completely unified from corner to corner, where there are relationships throughout the piece. That is where shapes are related in their character, value, color and or texture. There must be passages and movement through the piece and it must have excitement. That last word is the opposite of boredom. Every single square inch (or centimeter) must have something happening that is related to other parts of the painting, but in that relating must also be different. Texture stampings, for example, must be similar but different. VARIATION is a a key operative.
So!! There you have it. How long do paintings like this take? Weeks and, frequently, months!
Failure is my companion every step of the way. It is part of the process. The trick is to work the painting until it is finished: Never give up. Think think think think!!!!

9 comments:

Nancy Goldman said...

Even though I usually paint representational art I am really attracted to non-representational and abstract art. I've done a few and am feeling the pull toward trying another. I love your value contrasts, textures and colors in this one. It's a beautiful painting.

Paul Kasmir said...

Mike,

Thanks for explaining your process this is very helpful:0)!!! I hope you don't mind but I copied and pasted this and printed it out to keep next to the art desk as a reminder to myself.

Thanks Again.

Sincerely
Paul

-Don said...

This is truly wonderful! I wish I could get in front of it and just absorb... Great job.

-Don

Mike said...

Thanks for commenting, Nancy. Try it again . . . .it's addicting!

Mike said...

You are welcome, Paul. Paint on!
Mike

Mike said...

Thanks, Don. It's always good to hear from you.

Lauren said...

This is an absolutely gorgeous painting. Loving what I've seen of your blog... thanks for being such a good sharer. :)

Ross Lynem said...

Thank you Mike for visiting my blog and for your comments about my paintings. I really was thrilled to have you stop by as i have been a great admirer of your art for some time now having your web site bookmarked and stopping by often. I am wondering if you could share how you achieve such vibrant colors on your abstracts. They seem to glow. Do you frame them under glass when done? The Kanuga workshops look fabulous. I must put that one on my calendar.
Blessings always. Ross

LuLu said...

The values are wonderful in this piece. The explanation of your process is very helpful.

Very interesting blog - glad I found you!

Peace,
LuLu
www.lulu-too-beaucoup.blogspot.com