Value Sketch For Dynamic Watercolor Painting

 In this lesson we’ll paint a covered bridge in morning light using easy watercolor painting techniques for great effect. It’s an easy lesson and we work through it step-by-step.

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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.

From Observational Sketch To Value Design

During the process, the large, simple value shapes are created by combining individual elements – or portions of them – together.  This is the process of creating an underlying abstract composition. The abstract composition defines the shapes to which values will be applied.

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.

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

Related Lessons

Lessons About Value

Lessons About Value Sketching and Composition