Friday, May 7, 2010

distribution, value stacking and juxtaposition

Remington (all images from ) except the Brangwyn and the Seago.

The Remington above shows another principle of distribution, that I call value stacking. Rather than simply placing shapes of value about the painting, there are shapes of contrasting value placed on top of one another. The shapes of the horses are placed on the light background and the middle horse is relieved against the dark horse behind it. Also as an aside, notice how he has joined the front horses head to the background trees pulling all the darks into one contiguous shape. Beautifully designed arabesques and patterns can result. This also tends to give spatial recession. I have written about this some before, here is a link to an earlier post .

This etching by Brangwyn shows all sorts of value distribution savvy but I most wanted to call your attention to the cranes at the upper right, and the white shape of the hull against the dark background. Also notice that black stern's transom set against the white clouds. All these are examples of value stacking.

Here is a Tissot showing the same arrangement, I have elected to use mostly black and white or nearly black and white illustrations, but it works in color too. The black and white images just show it more clearly. Our coy maiden has that black frock over her white dress and then the whole deal is pasted onto the dark fence behind which her panting suitor is thankfully restrained. I am sure he's feeding her some jive about how shes not like those other girls and how he's turning his life around. He's probably telling her he's cooler than her boyfriend. Its a wonder women have anything to do with us.

Here is Whistlers mother, actually a A Study in Black and Gray. Mom is set against that gray background as a big silhouetted shape. The white picture to the left is such a contrast to the tone on which it sits that it pulls the viewer hard in that direction. If you cover it up with your hand you can watch the design fall apart. The amount of contrast between a juxtaposed shape and its background determines most of how hard it "pulls" your eye. By adjusting the value of such a shape you can control exactly its importance in the design.

Here is another Whistler using the big white shape laid over a dark background to great effect.

© The Estate of Edward Seago, courtesy of Portland Gallery

Here is a Seago that uses counterchage, that is, the tree is light against dark at the bottom and dark against light at the top. The values change to remain counter to the tone behind it. When you paint trees or steeples rising from the landscape and than standing against the sky, this is a handy thing to use. Again you can control how hard the shapes pull the eye by adjusting this contrast. For instance if you wanted a steeple to draw a lot of attention, you might drop the value of the sky and make the steeple high key.


When I spoke about the steeple, I am talking about making it that way to get an effect, rather than recording the observed facts of nature.


Mary Byrom said...

Love the examples in this post! Or maybe I just love the handling of these designs. Remington has always captured my attention with his nocturnes.

DennyHollandStudio said...

Whistler's Mother just arrived in San Francisco this week for a visit until January...I will definitely go check out those grays for myself! said...

I'm laughing so hard right now, after reading the response to my comment! You got HIM in there. I owe you one.

Anyway, I had a bid epiphany about design after seeing "Whistler's Mother" in person. What made it so incredibly effective and affected me so deeply was the mirrored shape of his mother in the negative space, in the grey wall, to her left.Mother's sitting shape is flipped. It's simple and elegant.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape, you make learning fun!
"distribution, value stacking and
That's a lot to consider, (since I
can't observe design into a picture.)
"No one was ever shot for leaving
something out of a picture"
(I have a test coming up, so I want to be sharp!)

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary; Thank you, I love you too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have never seen it. I would love to hear your opinion of it. It was a very important statement when it was made and made Whistler a rock star.

Stapleton Kearns said...

林60102asai_sistrunk ;
hello Thank you for pushing up my post!

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's a good observation.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You can earn extra points by telling me, who was the worlds first self made communist-artist millionare?
That's before Charlie Chaplin anyway,