Monday, February 17, 2014

Elements of Art: Tone

We're going to talk about tone!  I really, really want to talk about color but I think it would make more sense to discuss tone first.  Color might end up broken into several lessons since there's so much to cover....

Anyway, today's it's all about creating "color" with black and white!

Tone (or value) is the degree of blackness or whiteness.  It helps to convey form and where an object is in space (foreground, background, etc).  Often, artists will create a tonal study to help define where colors will go later.  What part of my image is my darkest dark?  My lightest light?  And then fill in between

This is a tonal study by Michelangelo.  There are examples from every era and style of art, so you can take your pick! Here, the direction of the light is obviously from right to left.  There are deep blacks on the left, and the color of the paper represents the lightest tones of the figure.

Tone or value doesn't need to be black and white.  I think it's easiest to see in black and white.

So what about paper dolls?

Well, I have two black and white examples to share.  Again, tone is everywhere, not just in black and white, so look for it everywhere.

Norma Lu Meehan

This is a limited edition set available at Paperdoll Review.  Norma Lu Meehan's paper doll art is everywhere and it's great!  She's an editor for Paper Doll Studio magazine and always contributes something lovely.  She's a former fashion illustrator who specializes in historic costumes, and there's a lot to learn from her work.  The image above shows one of her black and white dolls (if you follow the link, there's a better view of this).  She uses line and tone to illustrate her figures.  The first outfit on the left is particularly striking.  I think it's easy to think of black as a single, dark tone instead of something made up of various shades of black and white.  That dark outfit reads as "black" and that's because of - not in spite of - the variation from super dark to light.

Brenda Sneathen Mattox,

Brenda is another heavy hitter in the world of paper dolls.  She's another trained fashion illustrator.  Her website is full of incredible dolls, both in black & white and color.  It can be a bit tricky to navigate, but well worth digging through.

The image above is taken from a doll set featuring the classic little black dress.  Again, she makes wonderful use of black and white.  There's a fullness in the dress on the far right that's achieved through a subtle shift from black to white and back again.

I don't work in black and white nearly enough.  I think there's a lot to learn from tonal studies, whether it's a charcoal still-life or a pencil figure drawing.  Try to push the tones and values in your work, and I know I'll look a little harder at mine!

No comments:

Post a Comment