Monday, February 1, 2010

Tonal Arrangements

I've become utterly fascinated by a concept I just read about in the latest issue of International Artist. The article by James Gurney (the famous illustrator of the Dinotopia series) was entitled, the "Windmill Principle," and discussed a specific kind of tonal arrangement found in Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Mill." Here is the painting:

The Mill by Rembrandt

The idea is that each value of the four vanes of the windmill represents one of the four possible tonal arrangements: light on dark, light on light, dark on light, and dark on dark.

Here is Gurney's illustration:

Tonal Study from The Mill

I began looking at all my paintings with fresh eyes and tried to find areas in my own work where I may have subconsciously followed this tonal arrangement. The most obvious one I could find was this portrait I did back in college:

Arthur Thomas, oil, 2004

I realized, in looking at my work, that I often incorporate this kind of arrangement to a greater or lesser degree, but not out of deliberate premeditation. I tend to work until my painting "feels right". Perhaps now I can reach a greater level of drama in my work if I am beginning to employ the "Windmill Principle" more attentively.

P.S. Gurney's article is an excerpt from his latest book, "Imaginative Realism", which you can preview by clicking here.


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