Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hard on the top, soft on the bottom.

I know that sounds liked a jingle or a slogan for some person or product.

I first heard it remembered out loud in a cheery singsong by Charles Vickery, the seascape painter when he was doing a demonstration in Rockport about 20 years ago. It went by like that, bit I thought "what"? He didn't say it again but I went to work on applying the idea to surf. It is pretty basic, canned, water representing method and has been exploited to a fare-thee-well by our friends the Chi-Coms making lesser priced oils for American homes.

Here above is an example of a passage that was painted with a hard, dark edge at the top, and then "pulled down" or blended to a soft edge on the bottom. I am going somewhere with this, I know that seems pretty mundane and obvious.

Decorative painters doing tole paintings on trays and tinware know and used this transition from a hard line to a soft valley to give the illusion of form in a simple drawing. You may remember the cheap cartoons from a few years ago that were computer rendered to be "airbrush" looking. The hard edge and fade passage is a big part of that "look", or a real airbrush, does anyone still use those?

This is a simple convention based on the actual anatomy of form. It works particularly well on naturally curving or or somewhat transparent forms. Among those forms are clouds and water. Many of you have been taught to lay a note on the canvas and then soften the edge. Thats pretty standard, but what if instead of softening the edge you choose a side of the edge and soften that? Entire passages and areas of a painting may all bear that pulled"edge. Imagine a sky full of dark grey clouds painted hard on the top. soft on the bottom. The convention describes nicely what goes on in clouds, and encodes an idea of their form rather Old paintings are full of those.

More tomorrow on this .


billspaintingmn said...

In the sign biz we would refer to this as a gradient.
.If you masked out the background of some letters
. establish a horizon line
.with an airbrush put hard on the top soft on the bottom,(above the horizon(usually blue)
.then do the opposite under the horizon line,(usually yellow)
.remove the masked out area
.Your letters would have a chrome
reflection look.
(like a mirror hubcap)

Wow! It was easy and gave a cool look.
Yes, I still have an airbrush.
And although I have not done a one shot handpainted showcard in a while,(most folks want vinyl letters today) I used to do a lot of it.
I hung out with some of the old timers, and they new all the tricks
to spuce up a card. I learned from them.
another lost art of sorts.

billspaintingmn said...

Bullets were another cool thing to add to showcards.If you hit it right they would look like pacman
and put fun into the picture.

willek said...

I have heard this principal espoused for clouds, but not for water or surf. But why not...I am all ears...

Unknown said...

this also applies to certain hairstyles of the sixties...
...and most of the cakes I try to bake at high altitude....

Interested to see how you apply this..

Stapleton Kearns said...

Gradient, there's a good word.

Stapleton Kearns said...

See tonights post.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I loved those hairstyles. Where did they go?

VickiRossArt said...

Leslie B. DeMille, a tutor with MyArtTutor, gets this stroke effect using conté crayon and velour paper. His sepia portraits are grand!