Above: exercise to advance color modeling
Still drifting, so, quite unexpectedly, found myself caught up in a current, talking myself into taking the next step in painting. (Wasn't I just knee deep in ink?) As I explained in an Artist's Comment it entails carefully adding highlight and core shade to a well laid foundation of color-modeled form.* That is after establishing a credible illusion of form (the 3DI) with all three color components - hue, value and chroma - highlight and core shade are added as finishing touches.
The irony is that after doing a lot of work to establish the main illusion with color, we endeavor to improve on it by washing out the color with white and gray and smothering it with black! LOL. Sounds nuts, but it's essential to getting a truly realistic effect. And it doesn't work the same way if you turn things around by starting with the tints, tones and shades. They really have to be applied discretely last as finishing touches. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is when the detailing starts.
For me the difficult part was/is reducing the brush size and sometimes even switching out the spray can for liner. But even with that liner, you're not drawing lines. You're just placing color against color to suggest this or that. It's exactly what you were doing before, only in smaller space, with smaller tools, making smaller strokes. Sound like fun to you? Ugh. Of course, not everything requires detailing, so it shouldn't be a bear.
Even though I'm tuned to color, I find I'm still strongly inclined to model by value. Well, who isn't? I think it's a carry over from drawing with graphite and with ink. Classic pen and ink is all about controlling value, so it takes a bit to shake up the paradigm to meet color on its own terms. And then it takes a bit to see where they overlap, where what one learned technically for inking applies to painting. As I see it, it applies to the finish. Something of a challenge for me, since finishing isn't a strength. Maybe that's in the process of changing?
So why tint, tone and shade? Why should they enter the equation, if the basic illusion has already been established? Why wash out the color by introducing gray and white to colors in the light zone and black to highly saturated colors in the shade? The answer is "nature, physics, reality." As Aristotle would say, it's the nature of art to imitate nature. Every artist becomes familiar with the natural model of light, which explains how light describes form. This applies not only to value, but to hue and chroma.
The key is to apply tint, tone and shade at the finish, not before. That's not easy working digitally with a color picker. There is always the temptation to sample colors from reference that pick the highlights and cores. One then finds himself "painting-by-numbers", as it were, picking at the surface, instead of painting in layers that provide a foundation for strong spatial illusions. Though picking like this will produce an immediate spatial illusion, so satisfying to beginners, it is typically weak and difficult to develop. I regret starting the Covergirl Color exercise using the color picker. It would be much stronger had I mixed a palette. More to the point, it would have better served the purpose of finishing, since the elements of finishing would not have been confused at the start with the foundation. Then, again, having to tease things apart made me aware of the mistake and made me somewhat skillful at separating the stages. So, learned two things, first, it's better to avoid the mistake, and, second, how to correct the mistake once it's made. Lemonade from lemons.
The idea that tint, tone and shade is for finishing/detailing is very helpful. Prior to this I knew what they were, but didn't realize how they applied in the great overall. Make a color lighter, add white. Bring it to a lower key, add gray. Paint color in the shadows, raise the chroma and add black.** Nothing hard to understand there, except, possibly, why do it and when? Oh! Yeah. For detail and that polished finish at the very end.
Well, now that that's cleared up, let's push it as far as it goes.
* I'm not talking about the obligatory white spot on the tip of the nose, that is a finishing touch for cartoons. That's an abridgement of the process I'm talking about. (But, hey, when a white spot can do the job, especially in cartoon or semi-real style, have at it.)
** Applies specifically to flesh tones.