Meeting Notes, January 24, 2019

At today's meeting: Joanne Loretta Chris Raphael Diane Lisa Dotty Pam Dianne Wendy Elo Tracie Jen Annie Jim Tedd Tim Jeanie Geri Eunice Laura Stephanie Yong Thomas and me Celeste

Today's topic: "Key" --what is it to "key" a painting? What do you know about it?

Celeste: I generally think about value when it comes to "key" (High, mid or low). In this first painting, I was going for "high key" but when I squint to look at it, I see that it is really "mid". Painting in high key means keeping the values in the upper (light) range and maintaining close values. It takes planning. I know that Scott Christensen says to key a painting is also to consider color.

Joanne: I did an exercise on this subject that I can show you. I usually think about the feeling that I want to convey. I may start out thinking "I want this to be high key" but then add values that aren't high key. It's all in what I want to say.

Loretta: I think it is easier to key a car than a painting (Laughter)! A box cutter is even better (Laughter)! I don't fully understand what it is to key a painting, so I am grateful for your examples.

Chris: My friend Marti uses brown to start a painting and as a result her paintings may fit the mid and lower key description. I, on the other hand, like color and my paintings may lean toward high key and mid key. I am showing a painting I did using reds (it wasn't this red in reality). Also, I painted this windmill from my recent trip to Europe. This time, I wanted to subdue my colors.

Raphael:  I used to do photography and during that time I was intrigued by low key. I liked photos (for example) in Jazz bars where everything is darkened down and there is a moodiness to that. I also remember fashion photography of the 50s and exciting the photos are when it is all in the upper register...very light. As a painter, I never think about it! I am showing two paintings I did recently in the daily Strada painting challenge.

Diane: In the beginning when I started painting I didn't know what I didn't know! Za told me: "you paint everything as high key". Wait. I do, I thought? I came to painting after working as an illustrator. Back then I did a lot of black and white. Since that time and since my initiation into painting I've learned about the high, medium and low key.  I am showing a painting from my archives.

Lisa: When I did photography I preferred the full range of values...and I think I feel that same way about painting too. It is just what I prefer. I am showing a little painting that I did recently.

Dotty: I cover the range! Some landscapes seem to lend themselves to a key. This one from Arizona does seem "high key". I am also showing a still life.

Pam: I know nothing about the keys. I am showing a painting...what is it? Is it high key?

Dianna: I had a teacher tell me that as long as you have "something mostly"...that will determine everything. So, it doesn't have to be value (though it can be!) I can be temperature, a color...anything that dominates, then...whatever it is that is "smaller" is what shows up! As an analogy...I painted a wall in my house and my child put a big handprint into the wet paint. The entire big wall was covered in paint but it was the handprint that everyone saw.  I am showing recent small paintings.

Wendy: In class I was doing this painting and my teacher told me STOP! I "minded" her and this is the result. I now see the wisdom in stopping here.  I don't know....Is this high key?

Elo: I've heard about high key and low key. Most of us seem to be in the broad key! I am showing two paintings I did from our trip to Europe. This painting is predominately light.

Tracie: I have sometimes felt conflicted about the "overuse" of color....! I'm in Za's class and she had us do an exercise on this very subject. I am showing a painting I did in Joanne's friday figure session (and I recommend it! the Friday session is great). I am also showing some recent paintings from the daily Strada Challenge.

Jen: I am taking a break from a commission that I am working on...I painted this painting in the interim.

Annie: I does seem that the matter of key has to do with the amount of "real estate" taken up by something (value or color). I am showing a project I did in a class (I don't remember which class). We did an accordion of different treatments of the same subject. I have been painting from my drawings and I am showing some examples of that. I brought in two books that I found valuable. In one book there is a question.."Ask yourself....what is this painting about!?" That question seems valuable to me.

Jim: I looked up the terms on the internet and I painted a high key and a low key for the practice. I am in the daily Strada Challenge. I have been setting up a simple still life and/or painting just "one thing".

Tedd: A lot has been said on the subject...I don't think I can add anything. I am showing my new plein air palette knife painting --I froze (with cold) doing this! 

Tim: I have a "high key" drawing to pass around! (Laughter)! I learned from Dan Scott..if you take the entire value range (say 1-9) and you "lob off" a (consecutive) batch of them, you'll have a "key". 
To key a painting is the stay within a range (light, medium or dark). It is working with compressed values. I am showing some recent plein air and studio paintings.

Jeanie: I pass

Geri: I haven't paid attention to key...but I will now! I am showing a recent drawing.

Eunice: I am about to start painting again after a lay off. I know it is time because I dreamt of painting a sky with purple paint (with my hand)! (laughter)!

Laura: I thought perhaps high key meant a lot of color, but I think I am understanding that high key would be more like "pastel" (color in the higher values).

Stephanie: I learned the Papa, Mama and baby bear strategy from Za. (Have something biggest, something else less than that and then something else smallest. I have been doing the Strada challenge also. I like to experiment with differing treatments...light background, dark background and so forth. I have been enjoying staying in to do indoor still life.

Yong: I didn't do my homework! (Laughter)! I'll just wing it. I don't think about key at all. I like to keep everything simple. What is is that gets you to spend a lot of your time painting? The subject has to be interesting to you, you have to care about it. My son was eating a tangerine and I stopped him and asked if I could please take a photo and paint it (Laughter)! Then I painted this. 

Thomas: I just got back from the Keys....does that count? (Laughter)! Za and I went to the same school (Kansas Art School). I now realize I should have aspired to work for Disney or Hallmark because working for Disney would have definitely been like getting a Masters! The Disney artists know so much about value and is 2nd nature to them. I did things my own way and I don't really regret it (but the Disney artists are unique!) The French Impressionists certainly taught us about high key. They would paint in that higher register and then used color temperature (often blue or purple) instead of darks.  "Descriptive" painters paint what is there. I do identify with descriptive painters because I paint from direct observation, but I also like to experiment and change things up! I have been painting in watercolor and I am intent on learning how to get the bottom notes (dark notes) in (like Yong does)! When we think about key, think about music, because it is the same! The key in music sets the tone....and the same is true in painting. 
Our dear friend Mike Porter has let us know that he was recently diagnosed with cancer. (Mike gave me permission to inform all his Alla Prima friends about this). Today, at the end of the meeting, we all held hands while Jim led us in a prayer of healing for Mike. Mike, we hold you in our hearts and all of us are beaming the brightest-white-healing-light directly to you.

(Here is Mike's email should you want to correspond with him:


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Fine Art Friday Figure Session... Friday Jan 18 OSA
20 drop in fee
1:15-4:15 pm
Joanne Radmilovich Kollman

Fresh Flower Saturdays this Saturday January 20 2019
OSA/ Joanne Radmilovich Kollman

Lots of new things taking place at OSA. New expansion, new paint, new classes, new paying system, new demos, new workshops (including Premier Portrait artist Max Ginsburg (February) :

Call to Artists "Hip to be Square" Sequoia Gallery:

Karen Doyle: Sequoia Gallery February Featured artist: Feb 5 Reception 5-8 136 3rd Avenue Hillsboro

Dianna Shyne workshops and classes

Do you want to show your work at New Seasons Progress Ridge? Contact Ally: (suggested by Karen Doyle)

OSA classes: Susan Kuznitsky Wednesdays and Saturdays

Hiatus Drawing club meets after the Alla Prima Meeting at French Quarter

Submit new questions (for our "topics" leave on our Facebook page or email

Sign up to be a plein air host for 2019 on our Facebook page (We're hoping to get hosts and dates and places up on our 2019 calendar).

Next Meeting Thursday Jan 31 Topic "Well, that tanked"! Tell us about any painting experience that you had that was a disaster.  What accounted for the problem and most importantly, what did you learn from the experience? (i.e.: a too strong color on your palette, wrong directions to a location,  the time when you forgot your get the idea). Let's discuss! 

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