Requirements: Black and white paint, painting board and brushes.
Think of black as zero (0) and white as ten. (10)
In two columns, judging the distance by eye, no measuring, allowing for a nine tone scale, one to be blended with soft edges, and the other to have crisp sharp edges, paint the tone of 0 at one end of the scale and the tone of 10 at the other end.
Now mix the tone of 5.
Do not hold a chart showing you the exact middle tone between black and white, 0 and 10, against this middle tone of 5 that you are mixing. Depend on your eye and mix. This is not as easy as it sounds. Practice! If you cannot get your tones correct your work will never look realistic.
I asked a private art tutor how to do something related to a painting technique. He picked up his brush and in a quick stroke he ‘did it.’ Excited, I thanked him for showing me how and expressed my opinion that ‘I now would be able to ‘do it.’
This angered my teacher. He actually yelled at me. ‘No, forty years of practice is how you do that.’
Okay, I thought.Well, I mightn’t have forty years and I want to be able to do that before then.I no longer sat idle watching television at night with the family. Oh, I was still there, keeping them company, but I was also focused as I practiced, every day, every week, for months on end, like a pianist with the scales until I mustered that one simple action the master could do in a few seconds with ease. Oh, he can still do it better than I can, because I stopped practicing doing it.
We can learn. No one is born talented they are born with the desire to develop the talents they seek to have. Some of us practice and acquire those talents. The choice is ours.
Once you think you have mixed the middle tone 5, hold your brush laden with this tonal value 5 paint over the top of the tone of 0 and then the tone of 10 and compare each. If your mixed tone of 5 appears to be an equal contrast, then check the contrast again while squinting your eyes. If you still think it is the tone of 5 then paint it as the central square on each side of your tonal chart column.
Now you should have two columns with enough space to hold nine squares of paint. The top and bottom square filled in with the two greatest extremes of one, the 0 and the 10 and the centre square filled in with the mid-tone of 5.
It is time to mix and paint the medium light tone, the one that goes exactly half way between the lightest tone and the mid-tone. When you have achieved that, mix and paint the medium dark tone, that is the tone that is exactly half way between the mid-tone and the darkest tone.
Take your time. It is not unreasonable for a beginner to take three hours to complete this tonal scale chart and still find themselves partly off in the calculation of the tone. It takes practice. That practice will reward you as it trains your mind to accept the correct tones that your eyes see. This will result in you being able to paint anything, including beautiful rose paintings.
When you have those five squares painted, in the two columns, there should now be four equal size spaces between each of these tones. This next part is where you discover if you have judged the correct tones.
You now mix and paint the exact tone (shade) that is half way between each of the existing squares of paint in the canvas. It is important to apply the paint clean with no muddying of the edges.
This is where the difference between a one-dollar paintbrush and a ten-dollar brush and the painter’s skill with the brush will become evident. You will at times, when painting anything, need to have the ability to apply wet paint against wet paint and to do so with a clean crisp edge.
The purpose of this exercise is to develop your skill, thus giving you the ability to paint more complex subjects. Keep practicing this exercise as a pianist practices the scales until it is easy.
Artist Henri Matisse said (in his A Painter's Notes, 1908): “When I have found the relationship of all the tones the result must be a living harmony of all the tones, a harmony not unlike that of a musical composition.”
Once the two tonal scales were completed, and there are the two identical scales with crisp clean edges of wet paint against, we turn one of these scales into a blended tone scale without hard edges.
The tonal value, usually shortened to one word, 'tone' though sometimes called the 'value.’ In this instance, value represents the light and shade values of a painting, not the monetary worth of a painting. Tonal (light and shade) value is more important than the colours used in a painting. You can distort the colour and still have a good representation of the subject you paint, but you cannot paint well until you are able to see and match a tonal value.
Turn one of these tonal scales into a blended tone scale where you cannot see the edges between the tones. They should merge as the tonal changes on the surface of an object subtly changing from light to dark. The other tonal scale remains with crisp edges. Each jump between tones on that crisp edges chart should be an identical tonal jump. If you are new at this, expect to find some tones close together and others wide apart in tonal value. It is unlikely a beginner would complete a tonal chart perfectly. The next exercise will help you develop your skill.
Create a simple five tone pattern consisting of the darkest tone, (0) the lightest tone (10) the mid-tone (5) and the medium light tone and medium dark tone.
Then reproduce that pattern sight size, working from dark to light.
Always start with the darkest tone and proceed, from darkest to lightest, as the canvas you work on is light, and you always begin where you will make the greatest difference.
As with the tonal chart scale in lesson one, practice makes perfect. Practice reproducing tonal patterns, and you will develop your artist’s eye to see tonal value, the shape of the tone and the proportion and correct placement of it in your painting.
Lesson Two Part Two