Wild Art

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An eye for detail is key, whatever the subject.

Animal painters often concentrate on the pattern of the pelt and the texture of the fur to the detriment of form and structure.

TONAL CLUES: the tones of the pattern seem more prominent than the tones that describe the form.

This is classical confusion between ‘local’ and ‘general’ tone, which can result in flat looking animals.

An explanation of the terms ‘local tone’ and ‘general tone’ would be helpful here.

DEFINING FORM: general tone is how light or dark something is due to the lighting conditions and how the facets of form relate to this light. These are the general tones that define form.

The local tone is how light or dark a thing is due to the material it is made from.  The local tone of coal is in the main darker than that of, say, a snowball.

The solution to the problem of the pattern of the pelt (local tone) destroying the depiction of form is to start with the emphasis on the structure of the animal, as shown by the general tone.

When this is established, lay the pattern of the pelt and its local tone over the general tone allowing the general tone to effect changes in the local tone - rather than the reverse.

It doesn’t help that often the local tone of a pattern can run contrary to the logic of the general tone.

RELATIVE TONES: the black part of the pattern on the top of a Frisian cow in a field can in fact (due to light falling on it) be lighter in tone than the ‘white’ part (in the shade) on the underside of the cow.

Getting the relativity of these tones wrong results in a flat picture as the general and local ton can cancel each other out.

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First establish the ‘general tone’ of the animal created by the light that is falling on it.



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As the process progresses the basic form of the animal will begin to flesh out.


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The light and dark colouring of the animal’s own pelt (local tone) can then be applied. 

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Use the highlights and shadows of the general tone to guide the process.





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