Saturday, June 21, 2008

Three Value Study

American illustrator Tom Lovell (1909-1997) often planned his compositions with soft charcoal, keeping the design to three simple tones: light, middle, and dark. This preliminary sketch was done with vine and compressed charcoal on tracing paper, about 3 by 6 inches.

The three-value study is an effective way to plan a painting, not only because it’s fast, but because the medium lends itself to a simple, bold statement. Instead of getting carried away with details of the figures, Lovell is concerned only with their overall position and gesture. He shapewelds the figures at the right, and accentuates the central caped figure by lightening the tone of the far bank behind him.

8 comments:

Eric Orchard said...

This requires such discipline for me to stick to. I was just reading the Art Of Hellboy and apparently Mike Mignola divides all his pictures into background and foreground one being light the other dark. I've found limiting my compositions always makes for a far better picture.

Dianne Mize said...

Shapewelds. Shapewelding. That says it. Why didn't I think of that. It makes perfect sense. I have wondered why academia had not constructed a word for this concept. The only thing I've seen that comes close is "lost edges" but "shapewelds" more accurately describes what is happening.

I just discovered your blog and am going to recommend it. Good stuff.

Tom said...

Another great post James. I have been looking at Tiepolo's ink studies (who was working 250 years before Tom Lovell) for his paintings and he does the exact same thing with three values. It is amazing how important simple artistic principals are and how they can make the subject secondary. It seems a good arrangement will always trump and interesting subject. Or better yet a good arrangement can make just about subject interesting.

Do you own the Tom Lovell drawing? Are you initial studies for illustrations done on a small scale first? Having only been taught by modern artists, it is great too see how much planning goes into a painting, or how much training goes into spontaneity. It is almost like making a movie.

=shane white= said...

Tom Lovell was such a master of color and just raw drafting ability. I was lucky enough to find his book of Native American and Civil War work, though that's only part of the amazing body of historical and editorial deftness this guy wielded.

I'd have loved to know about his approach to creating a picture. Thanks for the little glimpse.

=s=

ramon said...

Shane: take a look at this http://www.angelfire.com/mb2/battle_hastings_1066/lovell.html

James Gurney said...

Welcome, Dianne, and thanks for that insight, Eric.

Tom, yes, Lovell sent me that study. I do lots of small-scale studies, but rarely with that level of simplicity. Shane, I agree with you that Lovell should be known for more than his western and Civil War work. He did everything, but he doesn't have much web presence. That's why Ramon's link is a rare treat.

guy said...

Had the privilege of spening an entire day in his studio in Westport Connecticut. He would then put a colored pieces of paper beneath the tracing sketch to get an idea of the overall color scheme of the painting. He was working on a series about Egypt for the National Geographic at the time. Gave me two comps and one completed painting. One of the kindest men I ever met!

guy said...

He spent the entire day with my wife and I even to the point of having luch with his family.