Friday, November 27, 2015

Looking at Work in Grayscale

Lee Kaloidis, whom I've referenced a few times in this blog, has created a Flickr album of his Whale Songs series, showing it in grayscale as well as in color.  He says:
I'm posting the Whale Songs in gray scale so that I have a record of them. But also because studying paintings in gray scale is fundamental to the way I work and why I do so much work in black and white, and anyone who's interested in my work should know that. Throughout every painting session I'm studying gray scale photos of the piece as it develops. I know if a piece is articulate, balanced, well-constructed, legible, and engaging in gray scale it is fundamentally sound. Color is a strange thing and is a little like money in that it distorts clarity of vision and judgment, and so it is good, IMO, to be able to remove it from the equation in order to assess things at a distance that is free from the distortions of the sensational.
I would not say that a painting can't be successful if color if it is not successful in black and white, but it does seem like a good tool for looking at your work in progress.  Seeing your work minus the strong language of color allows you to see things you won't see otherwise.  This is similar to seeing your work from a distance, through a camera lens, or on a computer screen.  It gives you a different view, which can be revealing. 

I just did a few grayscale versions of some 8"x8" print/collages to see how they looked:





12 comments:

  1. It's interesting how different a piece looks in gayscale, and certainly makes you think differently about the composition. These are beautiful pieces, by the way.

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  2. I need to try this. I think it would help me identify better ways to create more interesting contrasts. My color choices seem to be stuck in the same values.

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  3. I do that with my work too. I like to count how many values I can see in my work. I feel good when I can at least find 7 gray values if not more in a given work.
    Not sure where I came up with seven. Sometimes I 'll develop a composition in gray scale and then paint over in colors.

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  4. Amazing how well your paintings read in colour as well as in greyscale. Wonderful balance of values and just the right amount of the darker accent!

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  5. I prop the painting at the end of a long hallway to check if it "reads" from far away. I agree with Jane, though. Not all paintings need dramatic value differences. Subtle variations can be really effective, too.

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  6. An excellent practice, to photograph the pieces in process and view it in black and white. I sometimes do that with finished work, but not often enough. Worth the time it takes. Thanks to you and to Lee Kaloidis (whose work I also admire hugely).

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  7. I disagree completely. I feel like color pieces read very differently from grey scale or black/white.

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  8. I have looked at Lee Kaloidis' work on FLICKR. Its interesting but in many cases i think the black and white image is the stronger piece. Perhaps his process, at least at times, has him painting a B&W as the primary with a color copy (perhaps unconsciously). It seems to me there is a difference between checking B&W as a near-end process and doing it step by step.

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    1. Ineresting comment, Terry. I've been investigating value lately, and I am not sure that it's all that easy to match color to value. Bright colors really LOOK lighter than muted colors. So I am wondering how much of a role value plays, compared to saturation. Equal? More than I think? An interesting study.

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    2. I find the color/value handling daunting - I can't see the values in a color composition - but perhaps no one (or very few) does - maybe i should stop thinking of a painting that fails this check a failed work :) looking forward to your color class next month

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  9. BTW - all four pieces are very nice but the 2nd one produces (for me) the stronger B&W - it may be because that one has the greatest range of tones each given some prominence - - white/black/several midtones - by that scheme a work done in closer tones might always fail to make a satisfying B&W even though it may be a wonderful piece in color - facinating question - let us know if you solve the riddle :)

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  10. A good excercise to practice! It is fascinating to see what happens in gray scale! Thanks for sharing Lee Kaloidis' work too.
    I do like all 3 pieces........

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