Jillian Tamaki

Tonal Studies

Nov 17th, 2008

I was a mean teacher and made my students do this very classic art school exercise this week. Tonal studies! It’s one of those exercises, much like colour theory studies, that seem kind of stupid at the time but, as you get a little older and a little wiser, you eventually see the value in.

Do all pictures fit neatly into these categories? Of course not. But I think improper organization of space is the reason a lot of student work looks weak and without impact. Compositionally confused. If you think in tone during the sketch phase, you can avoid a lot of hassle later on when you’re pondering why your spindly line drawing looks so wimpy.

Also think about what your colour pieces would look like if you were to photocopy it in black and white. If it’s an overall grey, perhaps that’s an indication that your piece could use some tonal re-thinking.