There is nothing random about the visual field. It is inherently organized. The effect of the light is perfectly coordinated. At each point in space just exactly the right amount and color of light is present. This is due to the absolutely, mathematically consistent behavior of light. If this were not the case, if light behaved randomly, vision would not be possible.
The coordinated relationships of the values and colors of the visual field all together add up to a state of tonal unity, a harmonious oneness of the light which we call the ‘poster’.
The poster is beautiful because it is a harmonious unity of luminosities.
The poster study is a small, semi-abstract painting, with much less drawing and detail than a finished painting. The focus of the exercise is the general effect of the tonal harmony.
We construct the poster study in a sequence of brushstrokes, beginning with the darkest and proceeding gradually up the value scale to the lightest. Each brushstroke is a ‘tonality’, possessing value, hue and intensity. The tonal interaction of the various brushstrokes suggests the sensory experience of the light.
Value is the lightness or darkness of a tonality, hue is its color family (blue, blue-green, green, etc.), and intensity is its degree of saturation or neutrality.
Light is the energy that we see with our eyes, and feel and experience in our hearts and minds. The poster study of a given scene should express the appearance and feeling of the luminosity of that scene.
Most non-painters have a vague and imprecise understanding of color. For painters, understanding color is essential. Color is our ‘stock in trade’. Everything we do, we do in color.
The poster study is an ideal exercise to develop a working understanding of color. It may be helpful to read books about color. But books won’t give us experiential knowledge. For that we need to jump in. But jumping-in can be frightening. It’s like learning to swim. It’s best to do it in the shallow end of the pool first. Fortunately for us, when it comes to learning about color there is a safe, non-threatening way to begin: the poster study.
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