Tones & Values in Painting

I’ve realized recently that one of the areas I need to work on the most in painting is tone and value. Color value is the lightness or darkness of a color and is relative, depending on what colors surround it.

It’s easier to deal with value in color as opposed to black and white, because there is a larger range of values to work with. When doing a black and white painting or drawing, value becomes much more important since all you’re working with are shades of white and black. The painting below was the second painting I did at school and was extremely tough to get through. The mix of textures in the still life set up for us, ranging from smooth to rough, fuzzy to shiny and everything in between, provided an interesting challenge.

Greyscale Still Life by Jess Lingley

Greyscale Still Life by Jess Lingley

Just FYI, yes, the statue head’s eyes were crooked! It was trolling me the entire time. D:

I enjoyed painting the different textures and choosing a composition. However, when it came to putting tones down, I really struggled.  With acrylics, we were told not to paint a light color over a mid-tone or dark color because the lighter color would lose its luminosity, something I’d never considered before. This would lessen the overall contrast of the painting and flatten it. Since I’m used to laying it on a bit thick, I had to be a lot more careful and it made the process more tedious. We also had to mix a particular tone and apply it all over the painting, rather than working on one item at a time. This helps unify the painting and keeps things from popping out and looking strange.

The worst part of the painting was mixing a grey on my palette, and having it look completely different on the canvas because of the shades of white and black surrounding it. To show you what I mean, take a look at this greyscale from an About.com article on Tone & Value. This article explains tone and value quite well, definitely worth a read.

Tone Is Relative to Other Tones

Tone Is Relative to Other Tones

The first vertical stripe in the above picture appears to get lighter as it goes down the image; it doesn’t. It’s all the same color, but depending on where you look at it on the picture, it’s lighter or darker because of the surrounding shades of grey. The second stripe is the same, appearing to get lighter as it descends the page but is in fact the same shade the entire way down.

One of the things I’d like to do to get better at tone-matching is to paint a tone-map of all my acrylic colors. It’d be nice to have some swatches of paint to hold up to whatever I’m painting, and then put them on the canvas without trying to second-guess things.

The other tricky thing with acrylics, especially when using just black & white, is that sometimes they dry darker than what they look like when wet. Since that project, I’ve taken to mixing colors a bit lighter than what I think I’ll need. I’ve also started painting from light to dark, because it’s easier to paint over light colors than paint light over darker colors.

I learned a lot from this exercise. If you paint thickly (but not impasto) and study tones really carefully, when you move far away from the painting the tones will blend together to give the illusion of depth. Almost all the paintings in my class looked much better from far away. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to get up and away from your work!

I would like to give black & white still life painting another try. I’ve also seen examples where artists will add a tinge of color to the mix, and it produces some really interesting effects. In fact, even the different between Titanium White and Zinc White (first is a cooler white than the second) makes for a distinctive look.

Jumping Into Digital Art

A few days ago (on a Wednesday night, surprisingly) my new Wacom Create tablet showed up! Once it was installed I had to give it a test run:

Wacom Doodle

Wacom Doodle

This tablet has pressure sensitivity, but unlike the Cintiq I had access to earlier this year, it doesn’t detect tilt-motion from my wrist. To be honest, so far I don’t miss that aspect of the tablet, and really love how lightweight and mobile it is. I don’t even mind the fact that it’s not wireless. It feels very similar to what a sketchbook is like, and instead of hunching down over it, I’m looking up at a screen.

I’ve been trying to gather resources to build a nice “digital workspace” for myself. This includes going through the art magazines I’ve purchased over the last few years and copying the resource CDs that came with them, to scour them for content. Many magazines, ImagineFX in particular, have downloadable tutorials and brushes in each magazine. Every so often they’ll have some really beautiful art inside and I’ll pick one up. Now, I have a chance to take advantage of the Photoshop brushes and tutorials they offer.

While going through one of the tutorials, I learned that some artists use 3D software to simulate models to use as reference. What a brilliant idea! My next thought was, what software should I use to do this? 3D software can get pretty expensive and can be very complicated to learn. After some research, I came across the Daz 3D Studio software. To my surprise, it is freely and legally available right now! This will be hugely useful when trying to come up with realistic lighting and anatomy references! I was skeptical at first since it seems too good to be true, and was afraid it would end up being trial software, but found an article explaining why the devs decided to make it free. They have customization packages that you can buy to add-on to the software, but on its own it’s more than enough to give me anatomy reference. They have landscape modelling software I’m going to look at as well.

This brings me to the next part of the workspace: software. There are so many programs out there for digital artists, so which one is the best? The answer to this greatly depends on what kind of art you like to do, and who your audience is. While I was researching different software online, including Corel Painter and Easy Paint Tool SAI, I found this Fur Affinity forum thread. A user by the name of Arshes Nei compares sketching and painting in 6 different pieces of software, results shown below. It’s highly educational and totally worth checking out!

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Paint Tool SAI has become very popular as of late because it’s a lightweight piece of software (in comparison to Photoshop and GIMP which can be resource hogs, and slow down your computer) and is relatively easy to find. I’m going to play around with that a bit, keeping in mind that when I eventually get a Macbook (way down the road when I stop being a poor art student), I’ll have to switch to something else since there’s no Mac version.

Armed with references and painting software, I should be ready to go! I was drawing in my sketchbook when the tablet first arrived, so I may start off by translating the sketch to the laptop…

I’ll end this post with my Foundation Computer final project. We used Adobe Illustrator frequently in that class and I fell in love with vector drawing. Our final project for the class was to do an animation, any way that we wanted. I used Illustrator to draw the frames and put them together in iMovie. I recommend watching it in the highest resolution available on Youtube’s website. Enjoy!

2012 Wrap-Up

This year has been a significant one for me for many reasons.

  • I applied and got accepted to two art schools.
  • Went on a 2-week road trip with Tim and went to places I’d never been before, including New Hampshire, Boston, New York, Niagra Falls, Montreal and old Quebec.
  • I quit my safety-net tech support job, moved away from home with my husband and started a new life in Halifax.
  • I started attending NSCAD for my BFA and began fulfilling my childhood dream of attending art school!

If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be doing this, I’d have told you that you were insane. But, here I am, and I’m so happy to be here!

This year I did a lot of drawing and painting, especially in the latter half of the year. Here are the first and last pieces I’ve completed in 2012.


Assess Your Personality
by ~soulexposed on deviantART


Yummy Yummy
by ~soulexposed on deviantART

Though 2012 has been a great year, there’s more I want to accomplish in 2013:

  • Have my art shown in a gallery setting (I’m working on this one and should know in a few weeks whether or not I’m in!)
  • Improve my painting skills as much as possible, specifically by studying more anatomy and concentrating on different light sources. I bought James Gurney’s Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter for xmas, and it’s full of ideas and knowledge for me to use. I’d love to get my paws on his other book, Imaginative Realism, and might crack and buy it soon. The reason I like these books is that they teach how to paint things that don’t exist, realistically. They focus on the study of form and light to bring life to imaginary subjects. This is what I want to be able to do with my work; come up with fantastical ideas that I can bring to life through wondrous paintings.
  • Complete my 1st year at NSCAD. Since I have no intentions of leaving this should be fairly straightforward, but I’m adding it to my goals anyway because it’s always nice to have at least one thing to cross off, confidently. 🙂 This semester will be full of classes where I use my head and hands: design, modeled forms, constructed forms, wood & metal, and of course drawing. I’m hoping that building things with my hands will give me a better understanding of forms, and help me draw and paint them more confidently.
  • Sell some more of my art! It makes me sad to see pieces I love collecting dust or hiding out in my studio space, so, likely in the summer, I’ll have a nice big art sale. I would also like to start doing commissions! I’m going to start thinking about how I want to set it up, and come summer time, will start advertising to the world. I’ve got a Wacom Bamboo create on the way to help with this. It’s not an Intuos or Cintiq, but I used them at school and fell in love with them. It’ll also be a giant help to Tim when he edits photos.
  • Figure out a way to update this blog during the school year. This might mean stock-piling post ideas when I have down time so I can spread them out during the busy times. Still working on this one.
  • Stop buying new art supplies and use what I’ve got! I’ve got every kind of paint imaginable, books, and I bought tons of canvases when Michael’s had their boxing week sales, so I should be good to go from here on out! (Excluding school supplies, boo hoo)
  • Keep my chin up even when it’s tough. There have been some rough patches, like getting settled into the new living space and adjusting to a new city, but even when the schoolwork load got rough I made an effort to remember why I’m here. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to follow my dream, and I can think of nothing I want more in life. Full speed ahead!

It’s been a really great year, filled with change and new adventures. Here’s to 2013!

Cheers! ^_^

Linocut Christmas

I had such good intentions to post more this holiday… ah well. I was busy making more art!

Last year I made everyone’s Christmas cards by hand and decided to do the same this year. While I chose to do them in water colors last year, which was a blast, this year I wanted to use some skills that I’d learned at NSCAD. When we did our linocut prints in printmaking a few months ago, I knew immediately that that was how I wanted to do Christmas cards this year.

I bought some 4″ x 5″ linoblocks (linoleum with wood-backing to make them easier to carve), two large sheets of Stonehenge paper, a couple tubes of water-soluable print-making ink and was on my way!

Linocut Xmas Cards by Jess Lingley

Linocut Xmas Cards by Jess Lingley

I think they turned out decently, though I’m still not sold on the owl. I wanted to keep the designs minimal so I wouldn’t break my back on them. Carving is hard work, and even these had my elbows and back aching the next day… but enough whining! These were fun to do and not that difficult, either! If you want to do your own linocut cards there are plenty of great resources to help you online, like this Instructables tutorial.

(via Instructables)

(via Instructables)

They suggest printing on papers that have patterns on them which can yield some interesting results. Overall, I found print-making at school to be a very finicky business. If you don’t ink the plates enough, or don’t put enough pressure down, you won’t get a clear image for a result. This can be desirable at times, however. It can be very unpredictable which some people like in art. I tend to like things to be a bit more controlled, but it was interesting to push my boundaries in print-making class. Linocut prints and dry point printing were my favorite techniques by far, but dry point isn’t really possible unless you have a proper printing press to get the right amount of pressure down.

If you don’t feel like making your own linocut prints, but would still love to have one or gift them, Etsy carries a ton of beautiful linocut prints from hundreds of different artists.

(via redcatpress on Etsy)

(via redcatpress on Etsy)

(via AtlantisPrints on Etsy)

(via AtlantisPrints on Etsy)

Finally, though technically these next prints are wood cuts and not linocuts (the technique used to make them is identical as far as I know), they’re absolutely stunning. I was introduced to Tugboat Printshop through BOOOOOOOM’s website. A two-person operation, they do large-scale woodblock prints.

"The Moon" 35.5" x 30.5" Woodcut Print on White BFK Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

“THE MOON” 35.5″ x 30.5″ Woodcut Print on White BFK Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

"THE FOUR ELEMENTS SET" Four 12" x 10.25 " Color Woodcut Prints on Ivory Somerset Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

“THE FOUR ELEMENTS SET”
Four 12″ x 10.25 ” Color Woodcut Prints on Ivory Somerset Paper
Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

The amount of tiny detail in these equates to hours upon hours of careful carving, but even if you ignore that, observe the multiple colors. In order to do multiple colors in a linocut or woodblock print, you need to have different blocks for each color. You basically need to carve the same thing for as many colors as you wish to include in your final print. There is so much room for margin of error in these kinds of works. I can’t imagine how long it would take to go from start to finish. Paul and Valerie talk about their process a bit here.

People wonder why prints like these are so expensive; beyond the insane amount of work that goes into them, there are a limited amount of prints that can be done before the wood wears down and becomes unusable. These beautiful prints are worth every penny in my books!

This may be my last post before going back to school, so everyone: have a great holiday and a happy new year! I have so many things to look forward to in the new year and I’m totally ready to get started! Let’s go, 2013!

Finished My First Semester!

Last Wednesday was my official last day of classes! I’m so relieved that I have some time off to recuperate and enjoy the holidays, but I enjoyed myself immensely and can’t wait to see what semester #2 has in store for me!

These last few months have gone by fairly quickly, but I had a lot of work to push through in that time. I’ve got almost more material from my first semester than I had putting my art school portfolio together. Drawings, paintings, prints, writing papers… I’ve been very busy! The great thing about the subject matter at school is that it all ties together. I used an idea from a computer project in my final drawing project, and used illustration skills in a computer project, for example.

It would take forever to describe each and every piece I did, so I’ll post a few of my favorites over the next few weeks. I recently updated my deviantart page with some new art while applying for a scholarship, so here are a few from there:


Self-Portrait 2012
by ~soulexposed on deviantART


Gouache Color Study by ~soulexposed on deviantART


Linocut Sugar Skull by ~soulexposed on deviantART

I haven’t had a lot of time to collect outside material for this blog, and I’m just now catching up on my Google Reader, tumblr and pinterest. Between that and some upcoming personal projects, I’ll have plenty to do over the break! Anyway, I wanted to share this Jen Mann painting video I came across on tumblr yesterday.

Jen Mann- Speed Painting from Wolf & Sparrow on Vimeo.

She’s using my favorite colors, pink & blue, so naturally I’m in love with this piece! She paints with her work flat on the wall, using a photo reference, with oils. It’s very interesting to see how small she works right off the bat, rather than putting down blocks of colors and working over top of them. She blends each section of the face beautifully. Also worth noting is that she paints in a very planned-out way, from the top left corner to the bottom right. It was very educational and inspiring watching this painting come together.

I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned, as I hope to update several times a week while I’m on break, and maybe even stockpile some posts for when I’m back in school in January.

Cheers! 😀

Hiatus Until Classes Are Out

The workload at art school has been insane! Fun, but insane.

Chairs Hanging from a Drape by Jess Lingley

My drawing skills have definitely been improving; with every new drawing I do, it builds upon the last. The techniques that I’m learning in class float around the back of my mind as I create. Our subject matter is getting more challenging, with nude models coming in every other week. I love it and look forward to part 2 in the winter!

Day of the Dead Skull by Jess Lingley - Linocut Print

I finished the first half of my intro to studio course, which was very much conceptually based. The final project for that course took me roughly 5 days to complete, 3 of them in a row I worked through. I wasn’t happy with the outcome, but I plan on dedicating a blog post to why that is, later on. The second half of my studio course is split into two parts: print making and painting. Printing making’s end is around the corner. It’s been very touch and go for me; basic stamping and simple print making hasn’t been that much fun, but I really loved linocuts and have so far enjoyed drypoint. I’m really excited about the painting portion, though!

Visual Culture has been educational and has really focused me to question where my inspiration comes from. Everything around me is inspiring, from culture, to literature, to music, to other artists… but I’ve learned that whatever I chose to paint or depict in my work, I need to be 100% aware of where it comes from and what I’m taking from. There is a line between painting for simple aesthetic reasons or for deeper meaning, and I’m not sure which side I’m on just yet, if I’m on a side at all…

Deconstructed Self Portrait by Jess Lingley

Deconstructed Self Portrait by Jess Lingley

Intro to computers has been a lot more fun than I anticipated. Learning to use the Adobe Suite has been great. Whether or not I choose to go a strictly design route, having this skill set will be extremely useful. The only downside to this course is that it’s made me want my own 27″ iMac, and with Apple just having updated the iMac line, I’m dying here. D:

I haven’t had time for any meaningful blog posts, but I do update my Twitter as well as Instagram with photos of what I’m working on, or random tidbits about my life. I should be done with classes around the second week of December. By then I should have tons of material to post about! Writing this post has made me realize how much I miss sharing my art and opinions with the world… fear not, loyal readers, I shall return!

The Charming & Exotic Oils of Tatiana Suarez (nsfw)

Tatiana Suarez‘s exotic paintings are filled with elements of nature and beautiful dreamlike creatures, all blended with rich oil paint.

Leopard - Oil on wood 2011 by Tatiana Suarez

Leopard – Oil on wood 2011 by Tatiana Suarez

The eyes of the girl above are hard to ignore. While they’re large and pretty, the bags underneath them give her a jaded and cynical expression. The creature around her neck, a combination of lizard and snake, is drawn to her floral tattoo. Despite this she seems comfortable, almost starting to smile.

Kooka Burra, Oil on Wood 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

Kooka Burra – Oil on Wood 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

I really like the composition of this painting, with flowers growing up from the bottom and a bird’s feather framing the girl’s head. All the different elements of this work flow seamlessly together. Tatiana mixes a more tattoo-style art, with thick outlines and flat shading, with a more realistic method of painting best shown in this girl’s lush pink lips. The light source in this work is particularly interesting with the backdrop being a glowing pink, and the light against her face being warm yellow.

Suki - Oil on wood 2008 by Tatiana Suarez

Suki – Oil on wood 2008 by Tatiana Suarez

Tatiana’s paintings are a strange cross between pinup-style models and cartoon characters. The exaggerated facial features and her rich palette of nature-esc colors give her subjects a twisted fairytale vibe. As I mentioned earlier, there looks to be a lot of tattoo inspiration in her paintings but she’s pushed it a step further, giving her subjects far more depth. Again, the background in this piece is luminious and beautiful, almost like a landscape that’s out of focus.

Miami 2011 Tati x 131 (by Tatiana Suarez)

Miami 2011 Tati x 131 (by Tatiana Suarez)

She doesn’t limit her work to canvases; she does murals as well! Her work seems suited to larger surfaces where she’s free to add as much detail as she wants whether it’s flowers, creatures from the forest or elements of the sea. She’s also able to push the painting further out than a normal tattoo-sized piece would allow. The blue details in the back really make her pink and orange tail stand out on the wall. I like that, rather than ignore the pipe on the wall, she’s painted right over top of it. The art takes over this space.

Boyrá - Oil on Machete 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

Boyrá – Oil on Machete 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

This is the first time I’ve seen a machete used as a painting surface; what a unique idea! I really like the psychedelic color palette used here. Complimentary colors of pink and green are balanced by her flowing neutral hair. Working on a surface like this really forces you to be aware of your space, and to be careful of your composition.

Tatiana Suarez has a definite style that she’s able to use to explore a lot of different themes, and her website has tons more to look at. Her style is a kind of jumble of illustration, tattoo and cartoon which makes for very interesting pieces to look at and admire.