Artwork Focus: Tonalism

For the past month, I’ve been researching more on the Tonalism style of art. This was a very popular style of art in the early-mid 1800s to early 1900s before Impressionism became the rage. I really like the mood / atmosphere, and darker color themes and stories you can tell with light.

I particularly like Granville Redmond (who I posted about back in Oct when I discovered him) – born in PA, moved to CA and the LA area (and have seen a focus on him in the Laguna art museums – right down from where I live now). He was famous for both Impressionism and Tonalism styles and focused on California landscapes.

I’m going to make this the focus of my art style for the next month or two and see where it goes. These are the last 6 pieces I’ve done – and the last one (top left) is a study and variation on Redmond’s Moonlit Pond painting. The others are originals (one, inspired by another tonalist painter Charles Warren Eaton.

I spend my work day and virtually all my time in front of the computer. I consider this a great break – and ironically although these works are all digital (and some eventually turned into canvas or wood prints) – this feels like a relaxing break from the day to day tech work.

This is a good overview of Tonalism:

Tonalism is rooted in the French Barbizon movement, which emphasized atmosphere and shadow. The Tonalist style employs a distinctive technique by the use of color’s middle values as opposed to stronger contrast and high chroma. Resulting in a understated and compelling overall effect. The tonalist subject matter is never entirely apparent; their is no effort to communicate a message or narrate a story. Instead of relating a story, each sensitively chosen color, composition, and line is arranged to create an intriguing visual poem.”The interiors of tonalist paintings are generally elegant and sparsely decorated, tonally uniform, simplified and indistinct; the figures are usually presented alone in silent contemplation. Landscapes are typically luscious and luminous with evocative atmospheric effects featuring misty backgrounds illuminated by moonlight. Tonalists painters were drawn to both the natural and spiritual realms. They sought to awaken the viewers consciousness by shrouding the subject in a misty indistinct veil of emotionalism. The palette is minimal, characterized by warm hues of brown, soft greens, gauzy yellows and muted grays. Preferred themes were evocative moonlight nights and poetic, vaporous landscapes. Tonalist painters seemed to favored unconscious states and psychological experiences over reality.”

Some more of my artwork is frequently posted at

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