COFFEE MEDITATION, RUFINO TAMAYO AND TONAL PAINTING…

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I finally solved a problem in painting that I have been trying to figure out since 2010 when I first encountered the work of modern Mexican master, Rufino Tamayo. I am a late comer to the work of Tamayo. Like many modern artists, I am still at times unconsciously enmeshed in the bias that tends to view modern art generally within the confines of European and American modernism. This limits one’s exposure to artists outside of these cultural artistic paradigms. Additionally, and more importantly I think, is the fact that Tamayo’s style of painting and use of color in his later works was so sophisticated that, prior to 2010, I was not ready to appreciate its complexity or understand its potential influence upon me. Prior to encountering Tamayo, I very naively thought I had seen it all in terms of modern painting.

As I was sitting in my usual morning ”coffee meditation” thinking about a small but hard won, Tamayo inspired technical success with paint, I thought it was worth creating a blogpost about because it’s an important topic in painting. The topic is tonal painting. Tonal painting, as I practice it, is the predominant use of one color throughout an entire work using only black, white and yellow to create multiple tonal variations of a single color. Great tonal painting requires the creation of many, difficult to achieve contrasting tones in order to create the eye popping visual interest and complexity that is generally created with a broad color palette. Vibrant, varied color generally characterized much my work prior to 2010. Tamayo’s paintings awakened in me a desire to paint in more subtle, tonal color palettes that are less ”sugary” than I was accustomed to. It ultimately inspired me to transcend my reliance on what I had begun to think of as visual ”eye candy”. I had no idea how difficult it would be to achieve more subtle tonal colors or how long that would take…