Saturday, April 25, 2009

Edges, deweighting for eye control

© The Estate of Edward Seago, courtesy of Portland Gallery

Here's our Seago again. Did you get the book?

I am going to break out some passages and speak about what is going on in them. Particularly as concerns expression of edges. For that is what the control of edges is, expression, not transcription.
I have had a side conversation with a painter who was concerned about the turning of form with color and was having a hard time getting both his values and his color . There has been some instruction on this blog where I have mentioned turning form using color (but not much) I clarified something for him, and I thought I might repeat it here.

Values are part of drawing.

Color is a decoration you hang on your drawing. Therefore go after the values first. You can inject the color later, if you have the values "right". Drawing is always the first consideration, not color. Anything well enough drawn will be well enough colored. I remember Ives Gammell saying that and I am sure it is a quote. But I am afraid I don't know whose.

Turning form with color is a means of simplifying the halftones, out in the lights. It will not build the "bedbug" line. That calls for a value shift.Rermember thepost on the parts of the light? You may want to review that if you aren't sure about the bedbug line, and its significance as arbiter between Gods pure light and the stygian darkness of shadow. Now I am going to get all the Hensche students after my hide. Henry Hensche put a great deal of emphasis on turning form with color. None of his students are young anymore, I will" puff up" and intimidate em.

I am going to throw a new idea at you , ready?

Here is a detail of the left hand side of the painting. Compare it with the full image above and notice something. The sky is light on the right side of the tree and dark on the left. Seago is doing something I call "deweighting". Don't go looking for that phrase in art instruction books because I made it up. But not recently. What I mean by deweighting is the downplaying of an edge in order to lessen visual interest.

Seago has darkened the edge of the sky as it meets the branches of the tree in order to direct the viewer elsewhere. He has arranged his values in such a way that the eye doesn't stop there but continues on to where he really wants you looking. He has put a bright sky contrasting strongly against the branches on the other side of the tree in order to direct your attention to that area.

You may remember in an earlier post my saying to imagine visual interest as having weight, and a painting needs to create an artistic balance of those different weights. Seago lessens the visual interest that would have been drawn to this area had he allowed the contrast of a bright sky with the gnarled and complex branches . He has removed visual weight from the area . Hence deweighting.

Here is the opposite. Seago has weighted this passage. He has done it with edges and values. Look at the razor sharp edges on the top of those houses out there, they haul our eye to the area with their contrast with the darks behind them. He has also loaded his lights. He has used a great deal of paint to get a textural attention grabber there. That house stands out better than if he had painted it the same value, but thinly. Seago of course wants us to look here.

I have shown you Seago drawing attention to this passage and called it weighting, after all I am using the word deweighting, surely there must be weighting? Well the important idea is really deweighting, I think we all know about drawing attention to an important area within a painting. Subordinating other passages to it by reducing visual interest at our edges, is a more subtle matter.


I am going to be talking a lot more about eye control.

Seago image from: Edward Seago, the vintage years by Ron Ranson, available through Amazon


Unknown said...

Great Works.
I like it.

willek said...

Terrific post, Stape! I have heard about blurring edges out of the center of interest area and I have "weighted" areas by increasing contrasts and lightening beside darks, but NEVER thought about darkening an area to reduce its impact. These tips are really the meat and potatoes of the game. Thanks, WillEK

JAMES A. COOK said...

Excelent blog STAPE. you say it like nobody else has, you real do get right into the meat of it and explain it just the way I need to hear it . The more I understand about the painting process from your teachings the more I find myself getting excited about my painting. I said it before, the way you teach is exactly the way I need to hear it.


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you,over there in Germany.What does an ewig suchender do?

Stapleton Kearns said...


So many ideas are closely related, but the way we name or describe them puts them in a new light. Often when I paint with an artist for the first time they will use a phrase and I will stop them and say, explain that. I then realize they have a part of the puzzle I don't, because of a several word description of it. I then snatch their piece of the puzzle and run away.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Oh no;
I am becoming a cheerleader! I noticed in the little picture for your profile that you are set up on the location that Aldro Hibbard was on, in the post on Gloucester easels I wrote a coup[le of months ago. Its cool to know there are places so unchanged that have figures in American painting. I am goung to do some posts about that but I have a lot of other stuff to cover first

Unknown said...

Mine book is in the mail!

I did an Alla Prima today, but started with a quick drawing WITH value (3 value imprimatura). Color came afterward, and temperature shifts were only used in the lights to modulate. It came out much better. Better value, better edges. Thanks!

Stapleton Kearns said...

The darkest dark in the lights
is always lighter, than the lightest light in the darks,


The lightest light in the darks
is always darker,
than the darkest dark in the lights.

Whew that's hard to get right.I know that is confusing I wrote it out wrong the first time, but there is an enormous principle described there as simply as I believe it can. Post that on your easel.

Y said...

Just came across this blog and want to say thanks for all this info, going back to read all your posts now. So much knowledge being spread here, you're doing a great service, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello Stapleton, this is a great blog. Really appreciate your thoughts and ideas on all aspects of painting. Real refreshing. I was just curious if you use the squint down technique when you paint seascapes???

thanks, Albert

Sandra Galda said...

Excellent post Stapelton! You are my internet atelier art master!!!! Thank you for writing such useful intellegently presented information on producing good art...not an easy task.

Chris said...

According to Robert Genn's art quotes

A painting well drawn is always well enough painted. (Sir William Orpen)

JE Daly said...

Stape, wish I had read these postings when you first wrote them. The Seago books are now well north of $300, and there aren't many even at those prices.

--JE Daly