Sunday, May 14, 2017

1375 - Zones Of Shade In Ink

A combination of lack of meaningful work and a willingness to be distracted that goes beyond normal reason means that I haven't posted much to JSVB, and I certainly haven't been drawing anything exciting.

I decided to go back to art school basics.  Above is a drill to practice making grades of shade.  It's pretty easy to do this with the computer, harder to do it with paint, and kind of tricky with pen and ink.  

The exercise begins with defining the ends of the scale: pure black and pure white.  Then you discover the intermediate shades.  With a computer this is easy, since most colour scales range as defined bit elements numbered from 0 to 256.  If you want a particular value, you can arrive at it mathematically: 0 is white and 256 is black, so if you wanted something halfway in between, you'd enter a value of 128, which is 256 divided by two.  

Ansel Adams, the master of photography, used a zone system that works much like the computer bit range.  Black is 0 and white is Roman numeral X.  Adams' system has eleven values, so that the mid-range value V is in the center of the scale.  Adams would carefully measure his subjects with a light meter to make certain all eleven values were represented in his photograph.  Human and animal subjects tend to fidget when being metered so much, so Adams used this system best on his gorgeous landscapes.  In order to make the subject fit all eleven zones, he adjusted his camera exposure to try to account for as many as possible, similar to using the histogram function in a digital camera.  If there were zones missing, he would add them during development using dodge and burn techniques.  In this way, aligning the picture's value scale to the zones was both additive and subtractive depending on his method.

There is far more to the Adams Zone System than I will mention here.  Although there were eleven values to the range, only the middle seven were practical.  This aligns with what I have learned about painting, in that you can lay down a mid-range colour as your base value, and then either lighten it or darken it by three steps each.  

With paint, you can change the value by tinting it lighter with white or shade it darker by adding black.  That's the very basics, anyways.  It's also an additive and subtractive system, since you can always adjust a colour by using tint and shade.  

Ink is difficult to translate into zones since it's only additive, a one-way trip.  I suppose you could subtract from back ink by using white ink,  but since a pen is a linear tool, you are simply adding black or white lines depending on ink.  Once the ink is laid, you cannot subtract from it.  So, to create zones, you start with white and add a few lines until you get your next zone. You add more lines to the second zone and so forth until you get all the zones you need. 

Since creating zones with ink is laborious,renowned illustrator Alphonse Dunn encourages us to use just six a, b, c, d, e, and f values as I have above.  This eliminates the mid-range value (c₁, pictured as "cd"), but it has the benefit of making the process of shading easier.  

The first two values (a,b) can be condensed to make an even simpler value: black.  The next two values (c,d) can be condensed to make the mid-range grey.   The final two values (e,f) condense to make white.  Now we have a compact three-point scale which can be used to define the values of the portrait much more quickly than Adams' method.  Since all the shades have to be rendered by hand rather than through the process of photography, simplicity is golden.  You start with white and work your way up to black using first the three point scale and then by refining the shades using the six point scale.