Come to the dark side
Article by T. Stonefield
I think one of the hardest things for new painters to do with confidence is to execute their dark values with conviction and make them dark enough. Over and over, I have told my beginning students to make their darks darker. There always seems to be so much resistance.
“Really? Darker than this?!!” they ask perplexed.
“It looks so strange!”
“But this is a skin tone! Nobody has shadows on their skin this dark!”
I ask them to stand up and get away from their paintings. Sometimes it is helpful and they see the advantage in putting in the darks. I’ve always explained the importance of putting dark values, middle tones, and lights in their paintings, and how it will always makes a good composition even stronger if it can been seen from across the room. Sadly, it always seems that as soon as the paint starts to flow, my beginners forget this concept.
What can I do to get this point across? I have struggled with this point for a while now.
Recently I have started bringing in gray scales and have them compare the various values to their paintings. What they think is dark is really only a middle tone. Of course, up close, it seems much too dark. They become aware, but it certainly seems to take a lot of time for them to develop their eye.
All really surprising and somewhat annoying…
But then one day, during a big de-cluttering frenzy, I found some of my older paintings.
Wow!! No contrast! Everything seemed so gray and flat! Could it be that I was a beginner, too with this blindness to dark values? Moi??
Apparently, it had taken me several years to develop a distinguishing touch. I had worked through my blindness and found that without dark, there is no light to be seen. No shape, nor depth, only flatness and boredom!!
Now I had a plan. I could bring in these embarrassments, my earlier paintings and perhaps they would see the light, err..the dark, quicker than I had and then their art work would begin to sing!!
Then, they would come to the dark side, too!