Friday, November 16, 2012

The Lesson of the Abalone

Inside and Out -- 8"x10" Oil on Canvas panel

I study with David Gallup.
David tells us that he could paint an abalone 100 times and learn something new each time.

Around the studio we talk about "the lesson of the abalone". 

Here's how it goes:
I asked my classmates to tell me what they thought the lesson of the abalone was and this is what a couple of them wrote:

"If you start by painting your highlights first, and use a value or two darker than white for your lightest lights, you can inject color into your highlights, then make all your other values correspond. 
The opposite of that is waiting till the end to put in our highlights and finding that pure white isn't "white enough" to sparkle." - Diane

"To get the highlight down first so that I can darken all the other colors as needed to make sure my highlights will show up the way I want them to!  It is the relationship of the values that will show on the final painting."  :) Julie

I tried to use these concepts when I painted "Inside and Out" the image you see above.

Basically this lesson applies to so many things around us that I keep thinking back to it.  I'm going to discuss my thoughts on this "lesson" and other related concepts - I've been trying to "make mine" as I study with David.   Basically David says that the highlight is the greatest single opportunity to define volume.   Did you notice that I didn't say the volume of a THING?    David always stresses that we are drawing the shapes of VALUES, not the shapes of things.  That's why he always models his starts by doing a tonal painting with three values.   The highlight is the story.  It's what it is all about. 

Always start with the highlight.  Nothing tells you as much about the form as the highlight.  The harder the edge to the highlight, the more polished and shinier the object it defines.  The general light value and highlight need to be "right" so that it stands out in relationship to the value around it.  A highlight is NOT white.  It is a very light value but not white.   The area or edge around a highlight serves as a transition between the highlight and the rest of the form.
The next thing is to figure out how dark the background is so that you can find the relationship of the range of values in the form.  The cleanest most decisive edges should be in the interior (looks like I didn't do that in this painting... oh well.. miles and miles more of paint!)    We should be trying to lose the edges that are turning away.  Sometimes a slight change of value is all that is needed to create an edge.
by Soren Emil Carlson
If we start with the volume we have all that matters.  The rest is trying to figure out how much
can be lost and still have the shape read as the object we're painting.  David feels that we can define the success of a painting by how little we can paint and still have it look like what it is.

Lately we've been working on edges and using pumpkins and pots.   David often refers us to the work of other artists and one of his favorites to refer us to is Soren Emil Carlson Check out some of HIS edges and highlights!!   This is just ONE of many many outstanding examples of his work.
While I see no abalones among his images, I sure see a thorough understanding and application of edges, light, value, shape and "the lesson of the abalone".
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CrimsonLeaves said...

Oh I do think you've mastered painting the abalone shell, Marian. It is just exquisite! Love the painting you shared last too. I'll have to look at his work more. Not heard of him but with so many artists in the world and so many fabulous artists in the world, I'm just happy to have found the blogging artists that I have.

By the way, I love the new professional color to your page!

Marian Fortunati said...

Carlson is definitely one of the best!!

Enjoy your holidays, Sherry!!

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