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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Painting in High Key

Painting in high key is a lot like
singing in a high key: some of us do it better than
others and some of us just can't do it
at all!

When one refers to a painting as being rendered in "high key" or "low key" they are alluding to the range of lights (tones) to darks.  Imagine a piece reduced to a black and white photo; put your finger on the darkest dark.  Now imagine that dark tone on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being white and 10 being the blackest black you can mix.  If your dark is at 5 or below, the middle of the scale, the painting would be in high key.   If the lightest color used checks in at 5  (a midtone) and the darkest color registers a 10 (or pure black), it would be low key.  Read more here.

Of course I am simplifying something one could write volumes on.  My point is that artists usually favor a certain key over another if even subconsciously.  I know I love to get in the mix with deep darks and usually a lot of them.  I can even find myself in a "low key" quagmire where I suddenly realize I can't go any darker even though I need to.

To this end I attempted recently to paint a "high key" piece.

See the red browns off to the left? I couldn't resist, and this may have led me astray...Still I did a decent job of blocking out the scene in relatively light and mid-light tones.

Skies are almost always one of the lightest pieces in a painting and I did fine keeping this in the  2-4 range of tones.  I still could not resist laying in some "definition" telling myself I could adjust it along the way.  (Note to self: no, you cannot adjust, you must correct immediately!)

The tree shapes are ok but I better watch those blue shadow lines getting close to the brownish road definition.  I just might slip into the abyss of the dark side. But really, I am getting far more concerned at this stage about giving a credible rendering of the trees and their gradual shapes than I am the tones.  I know I need to see the trees before I can easily chase the light of the sun.

So about now I decide that the colors on my palate will have to suffice and I just "go for it."

Here it is currently and while I see more "tweaking" to be done along the lower tree trunk  line and the closer branches, I think I did ok in keeping it relatively high key, at least for me!  

While I work to finish this piece I am also going to find other scenes I can practice painting while staying higher key.  There is nothing wrong with using the range (say all 10 scales of the black and white tones) but there is a mood that can be created while working in one extreme or the other. My tendency in paint coloration is a lot like my personality: outspoken, loud, bold... definitely not quiet, demure or soft.  Maybe learning to hold the line in colors will influence my persona presentation??  I'll let you know!

Lowering the Color Key,

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