Value Sketch For A Dynamic Street Scene

Don’t Skip This Important Step!

A Simple Value Sketch Process

We often start a painting with a goal of only accurately representing our subject. Usually this results in an effort to duplicate every last detail, believing it is those which will best reveal our subject. This is rarely, if ever, the case.

Dynamic paintings result from the conscious application of some simple design principles. If this sounds complicated, you’ll be surprised to know that your task is really one of “simplification”. The visual power available in simple value arrangements is unexpected. We simply find it hard to believe that an illusion of complex reality can be attained by reducing representational subjects to simple abstract arrangements.

Yet it is true! The first step in this process is to design the larger abstract shapes and determine their value before approaching paper with brush and color.

From Observational Sketch To Value Design

Dynamic paintings are built on a foundation of shape and value.  The underlying composition often includes just a handful of shapes with well-defined value.

One of the objectives of value sketching is to simplify the value shapes to just a few. One simple but very effective way is to create three big value shapes – one in the foreground, one in the middle ground, and one in the background.  It is simple but timeless and has been used by artists for hundreds of years.

In this lesson we will do only one thumbnail value sketch. In practice, it is better to do at least several, allowing yourself to explore different arrangements for diferrent effects.

One-Point Linear Perspective

This composition is a good example of One-Point Perspective, which works really well for street scenes.

We have a series of lessons on basic linear perspective that will help you understand the concepts and practical application in your paintings.

What You’ll Need:

  • Simple line drawing of the scene – download the layout from the button below
  • Value Scale – any that you have will do or make one with this lesson – Five Step Value Scale
  • Sketchbook or loose paper and a 2B pencil


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Related Lessons

One-Point Linear Perspective

The underlying drawing for the value sketch uses the ideas of One-Point Linear Perspectve.

Go to this lesson to see the basics of one-point perspective.  The ideas of linear perspective are easy to understand and apply.

Using them will make a big difference in your paintings.

Blooms Streaks Mud Featured

Street Scene Painting Lesson

Turn this value sketch into a finished painting in this lesson.

The beginning of the painting uses layered washes to combine large value shapes which are refined and finished in the later stages.

It’s also a great lesson on applying the ideas of One-Point Linear Perspective in a practical way.

Blooms Streaks Mud Featured

Basic Linear Perspective

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Landscape Painting Lessons