One of the most important elements of designing your work when creating mood, to communicate and idea or point of interest or to evoke a feeling from your work, is the use of contrast and value . The focus on strong contrasts of light and dark in paintings is termed as Chiaroscuro, an Italian terms from the Renaissance where usually bold contrasts affect a whole composition. I have focused on contrasts of light and dark in previous works which focussed on tenebrism; where dramatic chiaroscuro becomes a dominant stylistic device (see abstract tenebrist inspired painting on canvas and porcelain).
These are also two main design elements I introduce in my porcelain lustre seminar with poppies, read more here and other related courses here; or get a free download about improving your painting here. I have used contrast and value to create my latest porcelain painting.
This latest porcelain painting of roses forms part of my new series of floral themed paintings, focused on concepts of personal truth, freedom, space and other ideas (see here).
Roses, flowering abundance of our truth
I decided on roses for a design as the heads of buds are beautiful and tight, reaching for the sky above the old flowered heads of opened roses, waiting for their turn. In particular, I wanted to represent them with a purposeful focus of contrast and value to represent the process of letting go. The style will therefore be loose and not very detailed, rather using contrast as the focus, as apposed to realism of detail or line work. I have used techniques similar to the blue anenomes plate (here.)
I wanted to use my personal references from my rose garden at my old house (a nice reminder) to represent the ideas of this quote. But to express the notion, I felt that contrast of value would be my focus for this painting. I started looking at reference materials from the Baroque era, like the Genetleschi paintings that use tenebrism (wrote about this technique a while ago now, see here). I came across this painting:
But I felt that the black depths and detail of the flowers were too harsh for the concept, I was after something softer. Then I came across this painting on facebook. I was largely inspired by this watercolour painting by Thomas W Schaller, "Shadows - altare della patria- Rome" 2003, watercolor, 30/22 inches.
The porcelain vase I've chosen is not modern, it has a European style cut out top, usually more suited to Dresden or Meissen or traditional style porcelain painting. While there is a huge trend for large bold sleek lined modern porcelain pieces, of which I adore to work on, I always like to choose the shape or style of porcelain which will best communicate my intention (see spider vase). To represent the concept of time, I think using an older style piece of porcelain effectively connects that idea from a shape which is 19th Century and modernising it with my artwork from today.
I completed the detail work in the final firings with my new range of brushes, which really allowed beautiful flow to the lustres, creating a contrast with the thickness and flow of the line work, due to the spring of the brush and it's ability to hold it's shape perfectly. However, during the final firing of the detail work, the result of the lustre colour was a big problem...it was too dark against the cream roses. Here are the cream flowers before the line work:
I had spent about 4 firings to achieve the subtle gradations of various colours to create the cream flowers, and the final detail work simply fired incorrectly. I used turmoline green and diluted it heavily, it was very transparent, and it still fired too dark. So I decided to rub off the line work with a gold eraser, to reduce the darkness of the line. It took a significant amount of time to get a result I was happy with. And then I added a little fine detail with some burnishing gold to lift it, using the brush from my kit. I find I can control the finest flowing lines on the vase, where as a nib would not flow easily for me, on the curved surface.
Overall I think the contrasts and values through this painting create many layers and movements of space, and the composition reflects the concept of 'abundance of truth.' I think I will try another version of this idea again, different colour scheme. I think I can make the concepts softer in style....I really want to create more lost edges to express the notion of letting go, about this painting, more similar to Schaller's watercolour, shown earlier.
I am content that this current porcelain piece reflects the deeper colours and contrasts like the baroque ideas mentioned earlier, and now I will explore further.
What do you think about this painting?
Have you used contrast and value as a specific way to create mood in a painting? Please let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you 🙂 Please share this post! Thanks