Best Art Advice: Value Contrast
Some of the best advice I've gotten over the years came from my mother, who was a brilliant business woman as well as a talented artist. I learned all kinds of useful life skills from her, like repairing sheet rock walls and buying and selling real estate and cars. But whenever we got together to just visit, we always talked about the latest thing we had seen or learned about art.
For a while, Mom had subscriptions to several art magazines. I didn't have the funds for magazines at that time, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on them when I got to her house! I would pour over her art magazines and books as we talked about their contents.
During one of our visits, we were talking about values in art, or the various degrees of lightness and darkness in the picture plane. (Not your typical mother and daughter conversation, I know, but I got lucky!) Then Mom brought up her favorite piece of art advice she got from one of her art teachers:
Make your darks DARK
and your lights LIGHT.
It was the first time I'd heard about the concept of value contrast, and I haven't heard much about it since then.
At the time, Mom liked to paint realistic subjects in oil on canvas. I was in to drawing, collage, and fiber arts, and had not yet begun painting. So, while these words of wisdom stuck with me, they did not really hit home until I started working with bolder color in soft pastels and paint many years later.
Why Value Contrast Is So Important
Contrast in art is simply the difference between things, or where two very different elements are placed next to each other. Sort of like the old opposites attract theory. Contrast is how our eyes tell when one thing ends and another begins, and how we see light, shadows, and atmosphere. Also, our eyes recognize the areas in a painting with the greatest contrast as the most important, and are continually drawn back there.
Contrasting elements in a painting could be a soft line against a hard line, smooth texture next to rough texture, vivid color by grayed color, or using colors next to each other that are opposites on the color wheel. All of these types of contrasts are important tools for an artist, but they all depend on value contrast, the degree of lightness against darkness, to be used successfully.
Value contrast can be used to turn a bland, uninspiring painting into a powerful, visually exciting painting, sometimes with only some minor adjustments.
It seems like every time I get stuck in a painting and don't know what it is about it that bugs me, it turns out to have something to do with the values and how well I've used value contrast. When I step back and really eyeball a piece of art that I'm not happy with, I usually find that I've made it in almost all one value. Sometimes I forget about the coolest tool I have in my paintbox! Even after all these years of art making, I have to remind myself of this one great truth:
Value Contrast Is An Artist's Superpower!
These are some great tools for understanding value contrast that I use all the time. There's my big color wheel, two different types of gray scale value finder cards, a piece of red plastic film that blocks out color when you look through it, and my gray plastic viewfinder that slides open and closed so a subject can be isolated. These were super important to me when I painted realistic subjects, and I still use them regularly in my abstract work.
This is a part of a continuing series of memes and blog posts about the Best Art Advice I've found so far. Please feel free to like, comment, and share this post. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Also, you can sign up for my Insider's List to get occasional updates and to see my latest rock music inspired paintings. Come visit! www.beckyroeslerart.com
Best Art Advice: Handling Edges And Transitions In Paintings
I've been on a quest to learn everything I can about art for most of my life. Not only do I want to learn to be the best artist I can be, but I have an endless curiosity about all things art related. Since I'm mainly a painter of 2D art, I spend a lot of time thinking about picture composition. Lately, the importance of edges and transitions in paintings has been on my mind a lot. There's not a whole lot out there about edges and transitions, so here's my take on some of the greatest artist's tools:
Edges and transitions can make or break a great painting.
The rhythm and flow of edges and transitions between shapes gives strength, definition, and cohesiveness to a painting. This is achieved by varying the edges and saving the sharpest edges and greatest contrasts for the focal point.
I’ve found this works for all styles of painting, from the most traditional realistic to the wildest abstraction. Even minimalist and color-field paintings have edges and transitions, and most paintings have a focal point of some kind.
It works because all paintings, no matter the style, need a path for your eyes to follow. Along this path, we want to find a variety of interesting areas where our eyes are encouraged to linger and return to, as well as gentle places for our eyes to rest. This path is what keeps us looking at a painting and is one of the most powerful tools an artist has.
The edges make the path and the path leads your eyes around the painting.
How an artist treats the edges and transitions between shapes is what defines the eye path. If all the edges and transitions are exactly alike, either all hard lines or all soft and faded, there is no path to follow. Our eyes are either brought to a jarring stop, or left to wander right on out of the painting.
So, in order to make paintings with the greatest visual impact that will keep the viewer’s attention longer, include a variety of edges and transitions while saving the sharpest edges and greatest contrasts for the focal point.
This is a part of a continuing series of memes and blog posts about the Best Art Advice I've found so far. Please feel free to like, comment, and share this post. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Also, you can sign up for my Insider's List to get occasional updates and to see my latest rock music inspired paintings
Is it time to get your art life organized?
This time of year I always promise myself that I will finally get my messy artist's life better organized. I drool over Container Store catalogs and check out inventory management programs online with the best of intentions. Everywhere I turn, I see this product or that software that could help me find my stuff and be more productive. And it's all so pretty and clean and neat and clearly labeled! Yes! That's what my studio is going to look like in 2016!
So I buy dozens of cute matching boxes and sign on for some big annual fees to try and keep all my artist's stuff together. And some of it helps, and some not so much. The reality is this:
If an artist is serious about making art and committed to living an artist's life, they will create and accumulate a ton of stuff. And a lot of that stuff will need to move around all over the place and not get lost or damaged.
I currently have hundreds of artworks to keep track of whether they are sold, on exhibit, or in storage. Then there's the pieces that need to be photographed, varnished, framed, or shipped, and those that are not yet finished. Add to that all of the precious art supplies and studio equipment, and both my head and my studio can get pretty crowded in there.
Start by focusing on the basic tools.
All of us creative types have our own personal organizational needs depending on the type of art we make, how big it is, and how productive we are. Most of us are limited in both studio and storage space, and we often have to use our art making space for other functions as well (like an office, classroom, garage, etc.) But there are some basic tools that every artist needs no matter how big or small their work space is:
Put it in writing!
It is so important to have a user friendly method of documenting artwork and the art making process. Right now I'm using a combination of cloud based inventory software, Photoshop for storing and editing photos, and my trusty hand-written spiral notebook. I've used several different kinds of software for photos and inventory over the years, and I've lost all the documentation and photos they held due to computer problems and software upgrades too. Not fun. So I'm so glad I've kept up with my old spiral notebooks.
I started keeping track of my artistic output and ideas in a simple, cheap spiral notebook quite a few years ago. At first, it was just to take notes and doodle while in the thinking and planning stages. But it grew into more of an all-in-one scrapbook, journal, and inventory document that has out-lasted all of the other organizational methods I have tried. It is the permanent hard copy that has pulled me through computer crashes and out of date software program glitches.
How do you keep track of your artistic output and ideas? My system is not ideal, and I'm always looking for a better method. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by and I hope this post gives you some new ideas.
I sold antiques and vintage goods for many years, and still have a stash of smaller things I like to add to my abstract collage paintings.
Pinwheels is an 18 x 24 in. mixed media and collage made with oil pastel, pencil, pastel, vintage sheet music, old crochet doilies, and a vintage jewelry fur clip. Since I knew I would be adding larger, heavier found objects in addition to the paper collage, I used a new, sturdy, masonite Ampersand Pastelboard for my support. Scraping and scratching into the various layers added extra texture. I tried to keep the colors as neutral as possible, but couldn't resist adding the velvety purple, creamy yellow green, and touches of red.
This painting makes me so happy! My funny husband called it A Trip To The Dentist (he had an appointment), but I named it Pinwheels after the pattern in the crochet. Since it is made with pastel and other materials that should not be touched, this painting will need to be framed under glass for display. Contact me if you are interested in buying this one or one like it.
I am having a great time playing with the combination of all sorts of mixed media and found object collage in my new Free Spirit series. It fits perfectly in with my commitment to using recycled materials to make new, upcycled and eco-friendly art whenever I can. And I love the story and sense of history an artwork takes on when vintage items are included!
See more of my work at my website www.beckyroeslerart.com. Buy original paintings and prints at my Saatchi shop and my Etsy shop. Be sure and sign up for my Insider's List so we can keep in touch. Feel free to like, comment, and share.
The Surprising Benefits Of Working In A Series
One Painting Leads To Another
And just like that, one painting was leading me to the next painting and the next and a whole new series was born. I named this series Wearing Sandals Year Around because that's just what we do here in South Texas. It's November now and I just finished my 32nd painting in the series. There's more coming!
As my work on this series evolved, I began making multiples in the same size and colors with compatible designs so they could be hung next to each other. Triple the fun!
Painting Multiples Is Challenging And Fun
A Series Will Make You Stop, Look, and Listen
Besides the obvious benefits of working small on paper (paper's cheaper, can work faster, produce more, and sell at a lower price point), I learned a few things about myself and my art making process that I must do as I continue with this series.
First of all, I must slow myself waaaaaaay down. There's no painting with wild abandon like I usually do when working on paper. Paper can't take it. I must stop and carefully consider each step before I proceed with caution. This use of creative restraint leads me to more deliberate mark-making and a simplified design. I've found that limiting my creative play while working small on paper let's me work faster on more paintings at once, and I'm a lot happier with the results.
Fun Ways To Give Titles To Art
It occurred to me that I often choose titles that are about what inspired or influenced the painting. So I made a list of ways to title an abstract artwork. Feel free to steal them and make them your own!
Got anything you can add to my list? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or send me an email from my contact tab so I can beef this list up some more. I have a feeling I may need it someday.
See more of my art at www.beckyroeslerart.com. Buy larger original paintings and prints at my Saatchi Art shop, and smaller original paintings at my website shop.
I've always been an artist, but I haven't always lived an artist's life. I finally made the switch to full-time artist and living a life of All Art All The Time in 2000.
Suddenly, it was 2013 and after years of painting realistic subjects in pastel and oil for shows, galleries, competitions, and commisions, I decided to change things up on my 60th birthday. I spent the entire day painting just for me with complete abandonment and joy using whatever materials and colors appealed to me at the moment. That meant no plan and no subject matter...a totally foreign concept to me! The result was "Turning 60", a 24 x 30 in. pastel and collage painting on paper that simply expressed my love of the materials and the process of making art (and maybe a little of how I felt about being 60 years old). This one painting changed my artist's life...I became an Abstract Artist!
Come visit & see more of my work at www.beckyroeslerart.com. Be sure and sign up for my Insider's List so we can keep in touch. Buy original paintings and prints at my Saatchi shop. Feel free to share this post. Your likes, comments, and shares are always greatly appreciated!
What do you do when things get so messed up you don't know
which direction to turn?
After I've done all I can, then thrown my hands up in the air, twirled around three times, and clicked my heels, yet everything is still sooooo wrong....I simply start over. Yes, I'm a big believer in Do Overs (as well as throwing, twirling and clicking). Sometimes you just have to hit that reset button and get on with your life.
John W. Gardner said "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." As an artist, I understand this to mean we need the self-confidence to risk making mistakes and then learn from them so we don't keep messing up. It means I can fill up one page (or canvas, phase of my life, etc.) and if it doesn't come out exactly like I want, then I can choose to keep going forward and change the way I do things in the future, or I can choose to just give up and roll around in my self-pity and self-doubt (not a good option). So, here I am world...starting over with a new website and blog!
Feel free to share this post, and be sure and sign up for my newsletter so we can keep in touch. Your likes, comments, and shares are always greatly appreciated!
I obsessively make bold and vibrant abstract paintings. I can't help myself. It's just what I have to do. But I am passionate about art of all kinds, and I love to think, talk, and write about it, then share it with you. Please sign up for my Insider's List so we can keep in touch.