Art Unboxed

Art Unboxed Practicing Tonal Values

If you follow my art, you may have noticed I have been doing a lot of fountain pen drawings in Prussian Blue ink. There is more than one reason for this, partially because I love both the color and fountain pens, but it has an important benefit. Drawing in one color allows me to continue practicing my tonal values.

The famous artists centuries ago were well known for using sanguine in their drawings. Today I’ve seen a number of current artists who do amazing portraits in graphite, or ink. The main benefit of working in one color has a similar effect as black and white does for a photographer. It allows you to convey the image in a very distinct, and unique way.

For a painter, if you can become better at drawing or painting with one color, it will enhance your full color portraits. This is because it allows you to become more experienced with tone and shading. It will also help you to know where to place color, variation, and will make you a better draftsman. When you become a better draftsman, it lifts every other aspect of your art.

This week, my newest book of images, Art In Prussian Blue And More comes out. While I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love it if you take a look, at least consider the idea behind some of the images. It’s a book with multiple pieces, several with one color, many with multiple colors, but hopefully all have a greater sense of tone than my first book several years ago.

That in itself is another reason for mentioning the book, every artist will benefit by recording your progress. It’s the main reason an artist paints more than one self portrait. Whether you put your art in book form or not, I strongly recommend a digital catalog. You may never sell one image, but having an archive can remind you how much you’ve improved over time. You may not like to look back often at old images, but I do recommend occasionally reminding yourself how far you’ve come.

Whether it’s sanguine, Prussian Blue, or graphite, I would suggest picking one color to practice. It’s not just about drawing, it’s about tone, shading, light/dark, and composition. When you only have one color, you have to be intentional about how you design the drawing. Over time you can find yourself better with red, green, and yellow, because you picked one color to focus on for a series of images.

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