What would you say was your biggest art breakthrough moment? That occasion when you stand back and saw something very new in your art. Sometimes you may feel it happening as you work on the project. A tingle of excitation perhaps? You may say something to yourself as it is happening because you can not contain the experience. (who are you talking to by the way? Your muse knows the truth).
I have had a number of these moments over the years. Some frustrating moments too, but they almost always point to a new breakthrough coming up. Some leaps are short while others are huge. They all add up though to forward momentum. As we know momentum is a force to be reckoned with!
My biggest moment? That is easy to answer. It was when I grapped the idea of values. Sounds, well not very exciting actually, but think about how important lights and dark areas are in a painting. I am confident that if you look at your favorite paintings of all time that the lights and darks are the critical elements that add impact to the painting.
In case you are not sure what I mean by values let me explain. Consider a black and white photograph. The light and dark elements can be divided up into ten distinct shades (values). I prefer the term values, but sometimes artists use the word tones. I hear tones and think of music, but values seems more universally understood. The range of ten values has been arranged into a scale called the Munsell Scale. The scale ranges form 0 to 10 being pure black to pure white. However since these extremes seldom feature in real life I prefer to work on 1 to 9.
So why did values make such a difference to me? In essence it made my paintings have impact. The sort of impact that attracts the eye from across a room before any other paintings register. This does not mean that my painting was inherently better than another, but it sure gave it a fighting chance. What else can you ask for?
Oh but color is all important you may say. Yes color is important, but look at an Ansel Adams photograph. It is black and white, but would it be better in color? Hardly. It would change everything. Using values alone Adams could make a dramatic and substantial image.
The next important point was that colors have values too. I did not need to paint in monochrome. Once I learned to match colors to their values a whole new experience was revealed.
Taking these breakthrough moments into my painting added immensely to my enjoyment of art. It opened new understanding to master artist's methods and made things like composition easier to forgive too.
So there it is. My big painting breakthrough moment.
What was your breakthrough moment?