Continuing Education

Episode List

Color & Tone

Tonality - Southwest Buttes

Scott paints a gesture of a Southwest Butte to demonstrate finding a tone that will establish a framework for future painting.

10min 23sec

The Tate Museum defines tone as "the relative lightness or darkness of a color". Their definition goes on to say that "One color can have an almost infinite number of tones". No wonder Scott says tone is a difficult concept to understand.

In difficult areas of painting , one of the simplest things you can do is a series of gestures to find your way.

When Scott starts a painting, he attempts to find a relative lightness / darkness that will unify the colors on a plane.

To develop a tonal study:

  • Use a limited palette and white.
  • Try to represent all the colors you see on a plane without much regard to shape.
  • On planes with light and shadow shapes, establish the tonality of each type of light.

Find at least three subjects with significantly different tones. For example:

  • Southwest butte or rock formation.
  • Snow scene.
  • Verdant tree meadow.

For each subject, develop one or more tonal studies as described in Key Takeaways.

Journal your observations.

Painting Journal.


Oil or gouache colors.

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