Have you made a tone Bar?
I made my first one in an oil painting class. It was the very first painting exercise we did. This handy tool has been used ever since. I take it to classes now to help others understand just what tone is and how it is used in creating believable paintings.
The tone bar is used primarily to help the artist become familiar and friends with the amount of light to dark there is in a shape. Use it as a guide for comparison. It's good to say of a particular shape -" it's a light tone but not white" but really how do we make a consistent memorable comparison which we can discuss with others? This is why the tone bar exists in all its formats.
Use the tone bar to measure by comparison. Compare the light to dark in a shape by holding the tone bar up and looking across from one to the other. Squinting is the best for this. Squinting shuts down excess light, it diminishes the amount of colour we see, leaving the grayness of a shape. To squint shut one eye and close the other eye until you are looking through your eyelashes (and they have no form). Notice how light to dark the shape is you can see through this narrow slit of vision.
This handy little painting tool can be found on the sides of the commercial colour wheel, it can be bought as a separate tool made of cardboard and ready to use. There are so many variations in physical size and shape, the number of increments or keys on the bar and material its made from.
The tone bar I use is a newer edition that I made myself. It's made on canvas so it's light weight, it is easy to handle and bend.
My tone bar lives in my note book. There is also one for the studio, a bit larger and still made on canvas.
Getting the tone correct is important to me, so that my paintings are believable and look right. I like to know that I have done everything I can to make my painting the best it can be. Tone is the cornerstone of this.
This month (September 2019) I am doing the plein-air painting challenge with Strada Easels. Now yes I would love to win a Strada Easel but really that's not the point of the exercise.
I work in pastel nearly all the time as its my favourite medium. Every so often I like to play with oil paint too so this challenge gives me that opportunity to reacquaint myself with the lusciousness of oil and alot more.
So what has that got to do with tone you may well ask?
It doesn't matter what your medium of choice, the consistent painting tool we all need to be familiar and friends with is tone.
Tone is the amount of light to dark between white and black. If you had of asked me what was tone when I started painting I would have looked at you blankly. I was very happily painting from photos I had taken and following along putting in the colours.
Then when I started to get serious about my art I had a hard look at what I was doing. This prompted a change. I took notes for a painting when I was out taking the photos. I was looking at how light to dark areas of the scene were for future use in the studio, along with the photo.
There came a moment when I realised that the lights to darks in the photo were out of alignment with what I was seeing in nature, with what I had recorded in my notes. I needed to check that what I was seeing was correct.
But how did I do this?
Enter the best ever painting tool for artists. The Tone Bar. This simple little bar with increments from white to black is a game changer. I made my first one in an oil painting class way back in the day. I then took it with me into the great outdoors and used it to check the lights to darks in nature. Then used theses notes in my painting and voila, my paintings started to look right.
Today I am out in the great outdoors painting on site (en plein-air painting) each day as part of this September Challenge. I have my trusty little note book size Tone Bar with me. I am reacquainting myself with not only oil painting, but the most basic of painting tools. My outdoor paintings are being checked as I make them. The Tone Bar has helped me get it right and to become friends with tone.
Have you got a tone bar?
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Making Pastel Happen -
a blog about everything pastel and painting.
It's my aim to share techniques, tips, tricks, adventures, products, paintings, educate, inspire and foster the appreciation of painting.
I welcome your feedback and questions and don't promise to post regularly, but to let you know when I do post .
I'l give it my best shot to answer your questions and if I can't I'll let you know. Gee I may even be able to give you the name of someone who can answer.
Either way this blog is about making pastel happen and making painting enjoyable. I sincerely wish you to join me on this adventure. best wishes, Karol