Wednesday, April 13, 2011
If your work suffers from “middle value mumbling,*” here’s a cure.
1. Bring your sketchbook to a restaurant, bus station, lecture hall, or waiting room.
2. Draw the scene very lightly in pencil, just to work out the shapes. You’ll erase these lines later.
3. Choose a drawing tool that only makes black shapes, such as a wide calligraphy marker or a water brush filled with black ink.
4. Define all the shapes as either white or black. If the scene is strongly lit, you can make the shadows totally black and the light areas white.
5. There are two rules:
a. DON’T DRAW OUTLINES. Let one black area run into another. Let white areas merge together. Resist the temptation to draw boundaries. You can see I started to forget this rule and outlined the top of the head and the base of the stool at right.
b. The other rule is DON’T DRAW MIDDLE TONES. This is hard to do. I desperately wanted to put in halftones and transitions in the man’s back.
5. Now erase the pencil lines. The result will probably look nothing like other drawings you’ve done. It might have a startling realism.
The viewer will have no trouble understanding the scene. The mystery can work very much in your favor. It’s excellent practice if you’re learning to paint, because these grouping decisions are a key to good tonal composition.
It’s also wonderful for giving your work more punch or more mystery. Dean Cornwell (above) in his early career was very interested in this kind of thinking.
*Middle value mumbling is the common tendency to mix all your colors in midrange tones, rather than pushing them to either the light or the dark. We all fall into this problem. It takes conscious effort to avoid it.
Previously on GurneyJourney:
Krøyer's Hip Hip Hurra
High Contrast Shape Welding
Related concept called "notan" explained at Empty Easel.com