Tonko House's Painting with Color and Light: Week 1

No. 1

I've been drooling over the work of Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo for quite a while, so once I discovered their course over on Schoolism, I had to sign up.

If you're not familiar with Dice and Robert, they're both Pixar veterans who served as Art Directors on films such as Ratatouille, Toy Story, and Monsters University. A couple of years ago they went off on their own to form Tonko House, where they made the wonderfully heartfelt and beautiful short film, The Dam Keeper. If you haven't seen it yet, you can stream it over on Amazon. It's worth the three bucks.

The set up at Schoolism is neat. For $144 you can stream any of the courses for a full year (it costs $1 to switch courses). I hesitated a little because I was concerned about getting my money's worth. After all, there are a ton of free tutorials on YouTube, including some from Dice and Robert. So why spend the money on the course? Well, as it turns out, the $144 doesn't just get you access to the lessons, it gets you access to the feedback the instructors gave to former students, which to me, is just as valuable. What's more, both the lessons and feedback are in video. It's enlightening to watch your instructor go into a student work and make it much stronger through hands-on overpainting, all the while reinforcing the week's lessons. The video feedback makes the course feel more like a college course than anything I've experienced online. It is reminiscent of being in a classroom, listening attentively as each student's work is critiqued.

No. 2

Week 1 of Painting with Color and Light focuses on ambient light. The idea is to really observe subtleties in light, shadow, and color in a diffuse light environment. This can be a bit tricky if you live in a one bedroom apartment with east- and west-facing windows, but I made it work. I was fortunate enough to get a few overcast days, which have been troublingly rare in the Mission since the drought began. Thank you, El Niño.

No. 3

It's impossible to be objective with your own work, but in the first week I can see some improvements and some things that I am still struggling with. One of my biggest issues is over-rendering, i.e., doing more with less. I'm not looking to achieve realism, but I am looking to convey the subjects' essence quickly and accurately. I think I got close to that idea with the plate in the first image. Although the fruit needs to be modeled more and grounded with darker contact shadows, I think the bottom left quadrant of the plate is rendered to a degree that sells it's shape without being overly fussy. 

No. 2 and no. 3 were a bit trickier. I tried to challenge myself with more complex compositions, but I took too long with them. The sun came out, and I lost the light, so I had to work on them over the course of a few days. In both images I got a little too absorbed in certain places and rushed others without considering the respective focus of each composition. Just because I'm observing and painting from life, doesn't mean I shouldn't be using creative license to enhance the composition.  

No. 4

No. 5

In nos. 4 and 5 I tried to simplify. I went for a paired down composition specifically so that I could focus on doing more with less. In the fifth image, I got closer to where I want to be.  It's far from perfect, but I think some of the materials—the wood, glass, and metal—read as intended. Compare this to the less-realized study in no. 1, and if feels like quite an improvement. And that's just the first week!