The Essential Element ~ TONE

   The element of tone pertains to the amount of light either reflected or absorbed by an object. (As reflection and absorption in this context are the reciprocals of one another, I will refer to this phenomena from this point on as simply reflection.) It is described by the amount of either black or white which exists in the absence of color. Tone exists in a range from white to black through a sequence of greys, the differentiation between which is extremely subtle.

   Tone, like line, relies upon the element of point for its perceptual existence. Whereas line relies upon point in the circumstance that two or more points exist in close proximity to one another creating a high amount of tension, hence visual flow, tone relies upon the tension or absence of tension created between points which do not exist in close proximity. Tone exists in the passive space between two or more points and derives its subtle degrees of light or dark from the variations in density of the number and size of points in a particular space.

   Light has a bearing on the quality of tone. The more light that touches upon an object, the lighter the tone will be and vice versa, This may perhaps be due to the fact that more light will reveal more points to the visual perception of the object. If no light touches upon an object, there will be no points perceptually visible and the object will appear dark as a result. In this example we must assume that the points themselves possess no element of tone in their own nature. Light possesses a nature unto itself which bears on the quality of tone in another way.

   The nature of the visible. light spectrum (of which I will elaborate further under the section on color) includes the feature of the amount of light absorbed or reflected by an object. If all the light falling upon an object is reflected the object will appear white. If all the light falling upon an object is absorbed the object will appear black. The myriad of colors available to the naked eye result from the varying frequencies at which the light waves that is reflected vibrates, To consider the element of tone we must disregard the various colors and concentrate solely upon the quantity of light which is reflected. When this task is accomplished it will be noted that any color may contain the full range of tone from white through the grays to black.

   A red object may appear visually as a dark red or a light red or any degree in between, depending on the amount of light reflected with the color red. The variations fall into categories:

   A hue to which there exists a greater proportion of white in relation to black is identified as a tint. In terms of values of light or dark, a tint is considered a high value.

   A hue to which there exists a greater proportion of black in relation to white is identified as a shade. In terms of values of light or dark, a shade is considered a low value.

   A medium value refers to an equal or closely equal proportion of light and dark or white, and black.

   There are basically three configurations which tone may take. The differences between these configurations apply to variations of boundaries. Tonal areas might maintain a distinct and abrupt boundary, an indistinct and gradual boundary or a variation of the two forms. Objects which block the light from reaching another object may create a low value tonal area upon the other object by its shadow which is distinct and forms an implied line at its boundary. This is most frequent in a case where the light source is from one point and would tend to strike the two objects in a straightforward manner. In a case where the light source is from one point but strikes the objects tangentially, the shadow cast upon the one object might appear indistinct and the tonal area would have a gradual and indistinct boundary because the shadow would be extended for some distance across the object as compared to a straightforward shadow. In a case where there is more than one light source, the tonal area created by the blockage of light would result in the overlapping of more than one low value tone, and appear to be indistinct or gradual or it might appear to be a combination / variation of distinct and indistinct.

   Universal properties inherent to tone include value, density, direction and relativity. Tone, which by its nature is dependent on the subtle variations in amount of light in order to perceptually exist, possesses the property of value. Value, as noted before, falls into a range from white to black with all the myriad shades of gray in between. Value exists either in the presence of or in the absence of color. Value involves the existence of what might be considered actual tone. Actual tone is produced by the artist by the addition of black or white to the surface.

   Implied tone exists in the property of density. Implied tone is created by the perception of the passive tension between points which do not exist in close proximity to one another. A convenient example of the mechanics of density is found in a grid pattern. The larger the grid spaces, the sparser the density will be and the lighter the tone. A grid pattern that has very small spaces in its structure will be more dense with a resultant dark tone. In any grid pattern series density increases relative to the size of the spaces in an inverse fashion. The smaller the spaces, the greater the density will be. Density increases in a series of grid patterns in a concurrent fashion relative to the size of the structural elements of the grid. The larger the structural element, the greater the density will be. The lightest implied tone possible by use of a grid pattern would be created by a grid possessing small structural elements and large spaces between them.

   Direction in tone exists in relation to changes in density. A tonal area that possesses an indistinct boundary, such as one which is dense and dark in a central area and becoming lighter toward the extremities, would possess the property of direction from the darkest point to the lightest point and vice versa. On the contrary, a tonal area which maintains a distinct boundary and is of a uniform density will not in itself exhibit the property of direction. In such a situation where a distinct boundary and no change in density is evident there may exist a perceptual direction which would pertain more to the directional property of shape rather than tone. There is the possibility that a tonal area would maintain a distinct boundary and exist in the perception of a shape while the density of the tone itself would vary. In this case direction would apply itself from the darkest area to the lightest and vice versa.

   A fourth property which applies to tone is that of relativity. Relativity pertains to the effects of one tone upon another. The amount of darkness any particular tonal area appears to perceptually possess is relative to its surrounding tonal areas. A specific tone such as white will appear more pronounced (or whiter) if it is surrounded by a very dark gray or black than if it were surrounded by a very light gray or white. A tone such as black will appear more pronounced (or blacker) if it is surrounded by a very light gray or white than if it were surrounded by a very dark gray or black. There is always an inverse relationship between tones. A medium value gray will appear more pronounced (or grayer) if it surrounded by either white or black than if it were surrounded by another gray tone.

   Aspects of the other elements may be incorporated in tone. In all cases the element of tone comes to exist in the passive tension in the space between the elements.

   Line incorporated into tone might involve a series of parallel lines (of any line configuration) in which the tone becomes evident according to the distance between the individual lines and the size of the lines themselves. Line segments or single points or a combination of the two in random arrangements (i.e. not in an arrangement which would result in shape such as cross-hatching) create tone.

   Tone incorporating shape exists in the use of grids where the element of line is utilized to form the structure of the grid. It may also exist in a situation where a number of shapes come in relatively close contact, whether the arrangement is ordered or chaotic.

   The element of texture has a rather pronounced effect on tone. Texture by its own nature encompasses quite a number of elemental combinations and arrangements. Tone incorporating texture varies according to the complexity of the texture. A texture which is tight and intricate will produce a tone which will appear darker than a texture which is loose and simple. The more complex texture will not allow for as much space between elements as a simple texture and therefore will increase the amount of tension in the space between the elements.

   Complementary color hues (such as blue and orange) when mixed together will produce a tone. Depending on the proportion of the two colors, a wide range of values result by a mixture. Equal proportions will produce a natural gray. This pertains to the use of ideal colors. Variations in tonal value will result from the mixture of two color hues which vary in tone themselves.