Thursday, May 6, 2010

distribution using tone

There is another way that a tone or value can be distributed across a surface, gradation. The weight from a tone doesn't need to be congealed into one shape.
It can be spread as a gradation. Here are some examples of that. The first three are from the Japanese artist Hiroshige. The one above is a particularly good example, but all three are using this device.

Etchers find it a natural device too. In the late 19th century and early 20th century there was a fad for etching that produced a lot of great work. It is under appreciated today because we want color on our walls. But those guys were fabulous designers.The piece below is by James McNeil Whistler. The gradation pulls the eye towards its darker end. The eye tends to follow a tone in the way it is gradated.

Below is an Axel Haig, one of my favorite 19th century etchers. All of that heavy murk at the bottom makes the design.

Below is a piece of Rookwood pottery c.1907 from the Cincinnati Art Museum. The decorative arts are full of great design and the Rookwood art potteries produced lots of examples of designs using gradation. Here is one.

Here is a Sanford Gifford painting from the site (the online museum, check it out) Gifford has used gradation above in the sky to balance the painting vertically. The tonal gradation pulls the eye upward at just the right amount calculated to balance the horizontality and complexity of the middle of the painting.


Dot Courson said...

Graduated tones... That's interesting. I'll ponder it as I wait for 2027.
Ordinarily I would see the darker value of the water on the lower right of the Gifford painting as a mass that helps balance that big mountain.
Thanks! said...

It won't surprise you to find out that I have many Japanese woodblocks hanging around my house. They are all exquisitely designed.

In fact, I JUST received that last wood block you show (Hiroshige: The Garden of Japanes Apricots-red sky and tree trunk) as a post card from a Japanese friend of mine. I have it standing up on my kitchen table where I look at it several times a day.
It's Hiroshige's decision to have that white band cut right across the middle of the composition and serve as a .back ground to the tiny details which is a bold move. However it's the vertical branches and the trunks cutting the composition diagonally and vertically that holds it all together and commands your attention. That little bit of architectural overhang on the top left running down the side; it's genius.
No wonder the Impressionist couldn't get enough of the Japanese woodblocks. Lots of lessons there.

Philip Koch said...

Excellent post. Gradation, including subtle gradations, can work magic. Good illustrations.

billspaintingmn said...

Does the gradation in the Gifford
help to see that wave crash in the middle?
Like drawing back the bow, and the target!
(You cannot observe design into a
I am listening, and hopefully learning Stape!

Unknown said...

This is an interesting concept. It seems like a great way to build in counterchange too. I am guessing both design tools are used together a lot.

Carol Nelson said...

I like to play with tones in a painting on the computer. Photo editing software allows one to experiment without picking up a brush. Sometimes I actually repaint passages in a painting because changing the tone improved the overall appearance so much.
Is that cheating?

Stapleton Kearns said...

2022, There is gradation from one side of the water to the other too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The Katz like qualities of Hiroshige are obvious.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. Tonight juxtaposition and maybe a little counterchange.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like the bow analogy. Yes I guess it is a little like that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am going there tonight.

Stapleton Kearns said...

No I don't think it is cheating. The only thing that matters is what the painting actually looks like.