Contrasting Tonal Values

Old car wood burning by Lora IrishTonal values, the shades of sepia from pale coffee with cream to dark chocolate, create the shading colors in our pyrography work.  By planning in advance areas of your work that place one very pale tone against an extremely dark tone you can give an area dramatic contrast, impact, and added depth.

Let’s use the wood burning, Grandpa’s Old Car, as our example of how contrast adds  depth to your pyrography designs. Please click of the finished burning and pattern for full sized printable images.

In the finished wood burning you see an old, abandoned car near a foreground tree and old fence line.  This is our foreground area of the pattern.  Directly behind the car stands a small clumb of trees and a gently rising hillside, this becomes our mid-ground area of the work. In the backgroud, along the hill ridge is a barn and tree line which falls in the background area of the pattern.

For a moment take a look out your window.  Notice that those items or elements that are nearest to you are also the items that have the strongest color and shadow contrasts to them.  The closer an element is to the viewer the stronger the color hues will appear. Foreground elements have distinct white highlights and crisp dark shadows.

Move you eye to the mid-ground area of you window view.  The elements or items in this visual range still have coloration, but the colors are not longer as bright and bold.  Shadows in the mid-ground area lose their white and black tones and move into the middle range of gray or brown.

Move your eye farther into the window view, try and find some distant point.  Notice tWoodburning Free Pattern by Lora Irishhat the background areas have lost much of their coloration.  Most coloring in the background falls in the gray-brown muted tones.  There are few distinct shadows in the distant background of any view.

Air – atmosphere – is not crystal clear.  Air contains fine water particles that when viewed close up, in the foreground of our designs, are invisible.  But the farther we look into a designs as a landscape the more the water particles whiten or cloud the view.

So the farther back we look the more ‘white’ from the water particles cover the elements of the scene. You can see that used in Grandpa’s Old Car pyrography.  The barn scene that is in the background is worked in a narrow range of pale tonal values to give the effect of looking through water laden air.  The mid-ground trees, just behind the car, have more contrast in the tonal values, but those values all fall in the mid-range of our tonal value scale.  Only the foreground had dramatic tones of white and black.

The tonal value placement matches the actual tonal value ranges of each area of a landscape.

Drama can also be created by placing one white tone directly in contact with one full black tone.  Notice along the bottom edge of the car.  The wheel wells and fender area have solid black tones.  In contract the grass in front of the car, that touches the car are unburned, white areas in the design.  That black and white contrast area directly sets the car on the ground in the grass.    This black and white contrast area is so bold that it pulls your eye, over and over again, to that area of the pyrography.