Brigitte Desbois‘ classical art training was to our benefit during this workshop. Fourteen artists converged at the Mirja Vahala Art Studio to gain a greater understanding of design, edges and luminosity.
Before beginning with pigments, Desbois covered the many ways a painting can be designed, using ideas such as the tunnel, the steelyard, the silhouette, z-shapes and more. For interesting designs, she also suggested inverting values, to have a value dominance, and to use shadows for designing. Desbois suggested we study the art of Daniil Volkov and Emile Bernard. Some of Brigitte’s favourite design books are:
Composition for Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne
Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow.
Composition in Art by Henri Rankin Poore
We chose images with a ‘strong idea’ for design, created notan value sketches, and then painted 3-shade raw umber notan studies. To paraphrase the artist Renoir: A strong idea equals a strong painting. Desbois taught us not to paint our darks with 100% black or our whites 100% white, but to have room to add dark and light accents. Creativity happens when we use the bare essentials of Notan. The big concept is to remember to squint when looking at reference and our paintings: a must for seeing the tonal value masses. Desbois’s demo of using only mass shapes and no line edges showed us how simplifying mass shapes – and having a main idea (design) – is powerful and beautiful. Have the ‘big plan’!
Beginning and end stages to the ‘mass’ painting demo. An example of a ‘tunnel’ design.
Brigitte Desbois explains that soft edges belong to the background, and that hard edges detach from the background. By blending an edge, an object can be detached from the background. She states that we tend to begin with hard edges because we draw with line: it is better to begin with soft edges and choose where to use harder edges later in the process. Consider using gradations to increase contrast toward an edge for a harder line, or vice versa. Edges can be softened with transitions: a combo of the colours of two areas. Irma Cerese uses interesting edges in her contemporary art.
Luminosity (a : the relative quantity of light and b : relative brightness of something)
Desbois explained other ways to create luminosity:
• to place cool beside a warm using broken colour (i.e. orange with pink). This creates more luminosity then tonal value contrasts (though it is fascinating how even an image painted in shades of Raw Umber can look luminous by using the correct tones);
• to have a light area – a halo – around the lightest spot (i.e., on the fruit in a still life);
• to refrain from going too dark or too light in mass areas (i.e., add dark and light accents);
• to begin the brightest/lightest areas on a white surface;
• to paint transparent shadows;
• that when the light source is warm: shadows become warmer as they move away from the object;
• that the local colour is found in the objects mid-tone.
This is only a snippet of what we learned in three days. No wonder we were tired, but I could see by the end of our workshop the growth made by each of us.
Thank you Brigitte. We hope to have you grace our studio for more workshops.