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wdmartin

Values: When Seeing Isn't Necessarily Believing

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Last April, @Wren wrote a blog post in which she linked to a video by Cesar Santos. In his video, he summarized an article he read in art school: "Values: When Seeing Isn't Necessarily Believing", from the Journal of Classical Realism (volume 2, issue 1, page 10), by Lindesay Harkness. It was a pretty decent video, but I was curious to read the full article, and it proved rather elusive.  Ultimately, I got in touch with Ms. Harkness by email.  She wrote back as follows:


 

Quote

 

Thank you so much for your interest . I hope the article will be useful to you.

Please feel free to share it with whomever you want.
 Please also feel free to put the word out that my teacher/ mentor, Paul Ingbretson, is still teaching in Lancaster MA. USA , and is taking on new students. He is a remarkable man: a brilliant painter and a very gifted and knowledgeable teacher. He offers the best training for a pitifully small fee, as he wants to support young artists. He has a very interesting series on Youtube.

I am sorry that these scans are so bad. Please note that the scanner seems to have its own image- enhancing protocol that badly distorts the images of  the two cast drawings, figs 2 and 3 , making them look equally contrasty.

So I took a photo, below, of these two drawings side by side, in the hope of making the difference between the two more true to life. This photo conveys more of the difference between the two, although the camera is also trying to thwart me!  The paper of both drawings is rippled unfortunately ( NC is very humid in the summer), which is why the backgrounds look so uneven, having waves of light and  shadow corresponding to the waves in the paper.

 

 

I have attached the article in PDF format here, along with the picture she sent along.  I thought it was a pretty interesting article, though I may need to read it a couple more times to really absorb the information.  I hope someone else here finds it interesting or useful.

IMG_5205.jpeg

HarknessArticle.pdf

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That is fantastic that you were able to track down the article, and that the author has generously allowed it to be shared. Thank you so much!

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Nice! Thanks! I only work at a library, so there are some 1337 skillz I lack! 

Very important concepts!

 

A thought for the mini painters. If you can grasp and develop these concepts when painting minis, not only will your paint jobs look way better, but you'll have valuable art skills in general. When I first moved into drawing and painting traditionally, I was immediately decent at laying in values accurately and it took a few years for my other skills to catch up with my value placements. Well worth the time to learn!

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For miniature painters who might be wondering how this applies to what we do since we aren't drawing and we often aren't working from reference (although we can, and we should more often.) It also applies to assessing your own work. Say you're working on the skirt of a figure. You're head down painting for 20 minutes, or an hour, or however long. Really you're not even staring at the whole skirt, you're looking at first this fold, then the next, and so on. It genuinely seems to you as if surely this time you are painting ever so much contrast. But then you bring it to the MSP Open at ReaperCon, or you stick it on a shelf for a few months, and either you or someone else notices there is not that much contrast after all.

 

I suspect his happens because of the effects the author is talking about. You're painting, and you're looking at the fold of the skirt with the very acute vision part of your eye. As the article mentions, your perception of contrast is relative, relational to the current situation. Your focus is all on that fold. The acute vision part of your eye recalibrates to that area only, redefining 'really dark' to the shadow area you're painting on the fold, and 'really light' to the highlight area. If your frame of reference is just that fold, there is a lot of contrast. But if you pull back and look at the whole figure, and then pull back further and look at the full value range of black to white, then in that context, the contrast on the skirt is much less than you thought it was while you were painting it.

 

Even being aware of that (if not in the terms described by this author), even having spent years judging miniature painting contests, and teaching people, and writing numerous blog articles on the topic of how to paint with more contrast, I STILL run into this. It is very common for me to spend an evening working on a part of a figure and be confident that I have painted plenty of contrast, only to wake up the next day and look at the figure on a shelf next to other WIP minis and think huh, that's not really that much contrast at all, in fact I better go back and add more. That willingness to take a second look to assess a figure for problems and then go back and try to address those can give you a big step up in improving your work.

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I used to have a complete run of the Journal of Classical Realism because I was interested in its exploration of techniques. But I gave it away and cancelled my subscription because I couldn’t reconcile myself with its politics. There is no obvious reason why realism in art should map to an uncomfortably male-gazey space with reactionary politics and few places for women except as recorders, passive admirers and subject matter, which made it difficult to appreciate the technical advice in the articles.

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Apparently the journal rights got passed on to a group called the Art Renewal Center.  They announced they were putting up the old articles in a blog post years ago that I came across, but it doesn't look as though they got very far -- at any rate, this article wasn't in their archive.

 

While I was on the site, I read most of their philosophy statement, which seems to boil down to "only representational art is good".  By the end of the third paragraph it was saying things like "The success of Modernism seems like a form of mass insanity, a nightmarish anomaly from which we pray the art world will finally soon awake."

 

Now, I'm not a huge fan of modern art. Most of it leaves me either completely unmoved, bored, or sometimes annoyed at the artist, if I feel like my time has been wasted. But the existence of art that doesn't appeal to me doesn't strike me as a problem.  There is plenty of room in the world for artistic expression of all sorts, ranging from excruciatingly detailed realist work to that one guy who taped a banana to the wall. I paint minis, and make digital maps of imaginary places, and find both very satisfying, even though I'm sure there are plenty of people who would think I'm nuts for lavishing time and effort on them.

 

So I don't think I'm going to be drinking their particular brand of kool-aid. There are enough problems in the world. I don't really feel the need to go piss in somebody else's Wheaties just because I happen not to like Wheaties very much.

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On 12/15/2019 at 9:18 PM, Wren said:

For miniature painters who might be wondering how this applies to what we do since we aren't drawing and we often aren't working from reference (although we can, and we should more often.) 

Ironically, the last few minis I painted (not counting the Massive Darkness agents), I took reference photos to make it easier to see how light fell across the forms. Most noticeable on the KD:M Zachary model.

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