Dec 7, 2017

Where are the Mid-Tones? Painting & Drawing Tips

Sunrise on Mermaid Cove, Summer 2017

Early in the morning, as the sun breaks over the mountains, the shoreline comes alive. Steve and  I discovered this hidden spot when we were camped at Saltery Bay.  You walk down the trail, come around the corner and there it is.  In the early morning calm, it invites peace and meditation.

Of course it also invites me to sit and sketch!  

Mermaid Cove, Saltery Bay, BC

When you study this picture it quickly becomes evident that there are only a few strong darks and a few whites.  Really it is a mass of mid-tones.  They are the bulk of any image. Putting them in their place is the job.  I have sketched this spot a number of times and I always feel the peaceful mood. My goal this time is to work with the mid-tones using my pen.  Ink helps me understand the punch of dark value.  However it really makes me think about the mid-tones.  Like graphite it is best done in layers rather than just jumping in.  My kind of project.

Close up of the Mass of Mid tones
What to do first?
With ink you need to work front to back. A little different from other mediums.  My darkest area is the mass of branches on the sides.  I don't want them all but I do want some to give depth and frame my work. I have chosen the left to discuss as it is the biggest mass of mid-tones. 

Branches laid out and trees set up behind - still building the value scale
What value for the trees?

Think of the values as 1 - white, 2 Medium -Light, 3- Medium, 4- Medium Dark, 5 - Dark Value
Studying my picture I can see tree branches in the foreground need to be dark (4). (note the trees on the left have more light than those on the right.)  Trees on the rocks have sunlight on one side but darks on the other (2 but spots as high as 3 & 4).  Oh, but what about the trees on the far mountain and the lowlands below. (about a 2-3)  Notice they are all in the mid value range.  But each has to be distinct but still blend together. 

As I work with each area I may be thinking a value of 2 but within that range there can be variations of tone. 
Building up the detail in that left corner of my picture.
When to Stop and Evaluate?
Actually I stop often. Set my picture on a stand. Move back and study it.  With ink you can add darks but you are never going back to lights.  Sure we inkers have our tricks but . . .   I am now at a point where I do want to study it more.  I need to put my shadows in the water in the foreground and add a little more to the water.  I do want that sunshine light on the rocks to shine out more so I will need to darken the foreground of the rocks more. All the time I am saving my little spots of white for the sunlight on the rocks.   Step by step those mid-tones will settle into their place.  Then I will add 'the jewelry' as one of my artist friends says.  The little splashes of dark (5's) that finishes it off.

Mermaid Cove in a new light?
Not time to finish the other drawing before post time so here is one of my other Mermaid Cove sketches.  This was done later in the afternoon as I was sitting with Max on the rocks.  Not as much time; Max will only sit so long.  So my plan was to mix watercolour with ink, but keep them separate.  Interesting, eh? 

Mermaid Cove - Ink and Watercolour
Are setting up your mid-tones difficult for you?  What kind of tasks do you set yourself to focus on them?

Special Thanks to Darlene and Donna for inspiring this post.

Looking for more Drawing Tips, check out my previous posts in this drawing series.  

How to Find Your Starting Point in a Drawing - here
4 Ways to Grow the Sketchbook Habit - here
Time to Meet Your Drawing Friends - here
Ready to Start Drawing - Get Your Materials Together - here
Get Those Values Working for you - here
Blenders the Secret to the Soft Touch of Graphite - here 
Values and Colours in Action - here

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Time to Move Inside and Draw
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Sea Dean said...

Your posts are always so helpful. Because I’m a colorist I often forget about mid tones. Some of my paintings come so easily and others are a struggle. If I planned better I know I would struggle less.

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

So true. I find giving myself an ink challenge really gets me thinking and planning more. But oh it is nice to just grab a brush and paint without planning too. But your right, that's when the struggle occur. Nice to hear from you, have a good Christmas