Techniques and Genres

Tonal work

Tonal work, or shading, enables artists to give the appearance of their subject being three dimensional. For the novice this can seem quite a challenge to get right especially when trying to use colour as well but one technique I found helpful was to half close your eyes and look for the darkest and lightest areas first and then gradually work in the grey by comparing those shades to them.

A useful exercise is to only use white and black on a coloured paper to train your eye or for drama just use white on a black background. When it comes to methods if shading there are a myriad of techniques to deploy to define the structure of your subject. You can smudge tone with pencil, charcoal, soft pastel, chalk and graphite, scribble, use dots, straight lines or cross hatch, blend with paint, water down a shade or add a darker hue in watercolour, thin acrylic with water and with oils white spirit or turps and layer hues on top of each other.

For collage, mixed media and print work you can be more imaginative and really go to down by using pattern or layering. You can use coloured tissue paper to build up tone in collage and mixed media and layered tracing paper to create a faded effect which is useful in drawings and paintings too. Laying works well for collage and mixed media along with the selective use of pattern and texture from textiles and magazines. Textures are a very useful way of adding tone in all media but particularly works well when printing using textures materials.

With print there is the reduction technique where you start by printing the lightest colours from your block and then progress with each successive shade getting darker, but you can also use masks to protect each shade from the next shade applied and hatching techniques for lino and woodcuts, and with monoprints done by drawing on a piece of paper resting on the rolled out ink, applying different pressure using different implements or just you finger yields interesting results. And then again you can combine all these techniques to suit your artwork, but if you are new to art, I suggest you try them one at a time.

If you’re interested in print techniques, check out my #MediaoftheWeek for July which is a beginner’s guide to Printmaking without the need for expensive equipment.