January 10, 2012
Color vs. Tonality
This small study was a good excercise in moving colors in and out of light. By that I am referring to what happens to a color, say red in this example as it moves away from the light. Obviously, the red gets darker. Notice that it does something else as well. It desaturates.
What does that mean? So glad you asked. To desaturate a color is to move it in a more neutral direction. Instead of having one or two of the primaries (red, yellow, blue) in the mixture, it has all three. In the shadow size of this apple, the red has both blue and yellow mixed into it. Blue darkens the mixture, yellow helps to neutralize it, but red still predominates. I find students get confused around this process. The thinking that we have to resist is that in order to make the red darker, we must add black. Black can - and usually does - change the mixture to the wrong color and the wrong temperature. Using white by itself in order to bring an object to light creates similar issues of course. Black and white out of the tube (and remember there are numerous whites and blacks that can be purchased in the tube and no two of them are the same color) will change the color as well as the tonal value.
One must consider both chroma (color) and tonality (relative lightness or darkness) at the same time. Notice the yellow on the lit side of the apple, and how both the chroma and tonality change completely as it moves into shadow. All of these relationships need to be right, or the painting will not "read". It will simply look wrong. To help with this process, it is useful to isolate various passages in order to view them more accurately. The use of a "peep hole" aids me greatly when I am having trouble seeing things accurately. A small hole in a gray piece of paper will work just fine for this. Move the peep hole from one area to another, and compare what you see. Is is darker, lighter, warmer, cooler....and then believe your eyes.
This is a good way to convince your mind of the truth your eyes already see. And the truth shall set you free.