April 29, 2010

High or Low - Pick a Key

For me, painting the same subject in both high-key and low key goes in to my SEAL (Self Engendered Art Lesson) bucket. I've seen them, I just don't usually do them. For those not familiar, a high-key painting is when you drop out most of the bottom half of your value range and what is left is what is on your palette. Those colors can be a lot of fun! A few darks can sneak in here and there but overall the painting will be quite light, as if all the shades on all the windows have been removed.  
These are two studies, the one on the left is done in high-key. Notice how saturated some of those colors are, especially on the duck's right (shadowed) side. Which do you prefer?


  1. Hmmm...what a great SEAL - I might have to try it too:) Thanks for the lesson!

  2. They are both beautiful, but I too, almost always prefer paintings with contrasts in value. By placing him in a dark background, the subject is pushed forward and the light cast on him becomes more of the subject and more dramatic. What a difference a background can make! Thank you for sharing your process.

  3. I'd go for the drama - love it! Very nice work.

  4. I think the low key is my first choice, however followed very closely by the high key! This is so interesting and so inspiring, thank you for sharing this. And you work is astonishing, just so beautiful and the title of the painting just adds to the interest.

  5. Hissnhowl, I would love to see what you come up with for this SEAL project.

    Ariel, thank you for your feedback. I agree with your perspective on the differences.

    Kari, Thank you!

    Suzanne, It is tough because the color is such a "grab" on the high key but my first take, as your is, is the drama. You are so welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it.