Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Tonalist Approach

I have been sitting a gallery and decided to do some painting.  There is a lot of reference material in the sketch books from various painting excursions.  Some of these are quite moody and a picked a few of these and made thumbnail sketches of them.  This process simplifies in the same manner that squinting does.  If I paint from the thumbnails then, the results will be simplified to basic shapes and values.  The colours are either from memory or created.  If the application of paint is kept simple as well, the result will be a tonalist painting.  Sometimes this approach is called "the dark side" because the key is often low since the reference is often light starved as in nocturns, early, and late light.

Meandering, 6x8, Oil on Board

The painting is dominated by warm and cool reds.  Detail is inferred.  Most edges are soft.  There is some impressionist broken colour and a bit of complementary colour.  The painting was started with a thin wash of the dominant warm tone, in this case Ultramarine and Transparent Red Oxide.  All of the underpainting was done transparently and the use of white was delayed as long as reasonable.  It is easy to manoeuvre transparent paint, but when white enters things are much more rigid.  After the thin wash, the masses were done in slightly thicker paint but using the same mixture.  Then the masses were made relatively warmer or cooler in still thicker paint.  The progression was to still thicker paint as the painting was finished.  At each stage the edges were modified stroke by stroke.


  1. Hi Geo
    I love the colors of this painting I find that It looks like the painting could be cut into quarters and if I had done this painting you would have said this to me.
    What do you think?

  2. Part in shade and part in sun. Warms peaking through the cools and vice versa. The light and its reflection separating the two sides.