art foundations

Spring '11
Ideas 1
The following are suggestions for you to try out this semester in your weekly object study. For
each week's study pick one idea and use it to guide your efforts. For all of your studies I highly
recommend using a viewfinder to help you compose and to "see" the color and shape of your
Each of the processes below are not just techniques, they are ways of seeing, and thinking
about your subject. To use any technique effectively try to look at things through the particular
lense of that method and learn what you can from it. The development of individual ways of
painting gradually evolve from immersing yourself in the ethos of studio work and your own
steady practice of painting.
 Stepped-value study:
Painting with distinct, unblended, ungradated steps of tone. Working this way has a long history
in the training of artists. There are many ways to go about it.
1) Pre-mix your values with unthinned paint: dark, middle, light. Apply the paint "impasto."
2) Prepare a toned ground, then work with premixed values
3) Lay in a thin wet middle tone ground. Use a subtractive method to establish lights. Add darks.
Allow the toned ground to remain for middle tones.
 Premixed 3-value, Primary Palette:
Across the top of your palette, mix up a 3 (up to 5) step value scale in a horizontal row, from
dark to light, by thoroughly mixing varying proportions of black + white. In a vertical column to
the left, lay out your three primaries: yellow, red, blue. Now, going to the right, under each step
of your value scale, mix an equivalent value of the primary. Add white to lighten a value. Add
black to darken red. Add raw umber to darken yellow. Blue is dark already. Add white to lighten.
Put a spotlight on your subject to strengthen light and shadow contrast. Spots will be in the
cabinets near the sink. Squint. Look for value shapes. Objects disappear into tonal patterns. Try
to simplify these into three (or up to 5) tonal steps and paint the shapes you see.
 One-touch:
Mix your color and put it down on the canvas and get out. Don't continue to touch into the paint
you've just put down. Go back to the palette after each patch is applied. Change the color on
the palette each time by adding some new color to the puddle, in some amount. Pick it up and
repeat. Try subtle changes to the mixture to address broad surfaces like back or ground planes.
Try contrast of intensity - neutrality; dark - light values; hue shifts; depending on what you're
 Divisionist Technique: Using a Single Mark (Petit-Tache, or "Little Touch"):
Use a single type of brush-mark as a unit of form-making. Late Impressionist and Pointillist
technique were based on this. In other words, don’t color and fill your drawing. Instead put the
paint down in the same stroke each time, changing the color subtly or dramatically, depending
on what you need to "get it right."
 Simplified Color Massing: Working from General to Specific with Color "Spots:"
Charles Hawthorne, influential teacher of Hans Hoffman, et al, used to talk about painting being
a matter of color "spots," by which he meant simple flat masses of color, side by side, producing
the total effect. To do this try unfocusing your eyes so that little details disappear. See the
resulting color sensation produced on your retina. Try to mix that color and lay it down in simple,
broad masses, one against the other.
Priming / primer:
Preparatory stage of using a material, such as gesso, to seal the painting surface to ready it for
painting. The primer seals the material from the acidic action of oil, and sets up a surface that
allows for the easy manipulation of paint. Priming is an optional stage for acrylic or other
waterbased paints.
The preparation of the painting surface with a primer, such as gesso, creates the ground.
Toned Ground:
Tinting the surface with a thin wash, or an opaque color, to prepare it for painting, as opposed to
painting on a white ground. Old master paintings traditionally were done on toned grounds.
Paint that is applied thickly, and opaquely, without thinning with solvent or medium
Dragging an almost dry brush across a textured surface, whether canvas, gesso, or dry paint
layer, to produce a broken, textural brush mark. Produces a softer edge than a loaded brush.
A glaze is produced by thinning paint with a medium, usually composed of linseed oil, damar
varnish, and turpentine in some proportion. A glaze is transparent color, versus impasto.