Value Studies For Stronger Compositions
The Key Is In Simplified Values
This lesson shows how to simplify values in a photographed scene. The result is the creation of large, abstract shapes that become the underlying value structure of the painting. Learning this is one of the best ways to improve your painting.
Color vs. Value In Our Subject
We are likely to notice color before value in any scene or subject – if we notice value at all. It gives us a sense that “color” is the most important element in our scene. This gives us the notion that copying what we see – especially the color we see – is the way to approach the painting. What we think of as “color” is really what’s known as “Hue“, just one of the Four Characteristics of Color – and arguably the LEAST important of the four.
The human eye has about four times as many receptors for dark and light as it does for color. Sensitivity to value helps us understand form, space and distance far better than Hue – or color. Value is also one of the Four Characteristics of Color and has two important roles in a painting: helping to represent light, which then creates an illusion of three-dimensional form; and in creating a strong underlying shape and value structure for the painting.
Simplifying Values For Painting
Even the simplest of scenes, like the one in this lesson, has hundreds of different values, represented in slight and subtle changes from one to the other. Our eyes are sensitive to them, but we are not able to consciously process and organize the many small variations in a scene.
The good news: there is no need to do so for your painting! A simple structure of no more than a small handful of large abstract – that is, non-objective – shapes filled with one of three values, will do more for the strength of your painting than almost anything else.
This lesson shows how to work from a photo of a simple scene – converting the actual, complex values to three simple values. The first step is to create a thumbnail drawing and apply three simple values. This process creates an abstract composition of large shapes with simple values.
From there, we create a larger value study, allowing the action of water and paint to create some subtle variety in value shapes, that visually simulate the slight changes we see in an actual scene.
Pencil Lines In The Drawing Layout
One note on the drawing layout. The downloadable layouts are done with heavy lines to make it easy to see and copy onto your watercolor paper. It is best not to draw the lines too heavy on your paper, especially in the sky, since there is a good chance the lines will show through the paint. It’s not a deal-breaker, but those heavy pencil lines are sometimes a distraction.
What you’ll need
- Brushes – Large, Medium and Small Rounds
- Colors – Ivory Black, Payne’s Gray or a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna
- Watercolor paper – preferably Arches 140lb Cold Press cut to about 7″ x 11″ or so
Color Study From Value Study
Converting a Value sketch into color is not an easy task, especially when using a photo reference.
This lesson shows how to convert the Value to color with variations in Chroma and Temperature to support the illusion of light and three-dimensional form.
Do this one next!
Value Basics Learning Track
This learning track is meant to give you a good understanding of the basic concepts and an introduction to using value effectively in your work.
Value is arguably the most important characteristic of color for the artist to consider.
Fundamentally, it is a measure of the relative lightness or darkness of a color or color shape. It is also sometimes referred to as tone. Learning to see the many hundreds or thousands of values as they exist in nature and to then transpose them a limited range of Value steps is fundamental to understanding and applying good value design in your paintings.
Learn To See And Paint Light And Form Learning Track
Recreating the effect of real world light on objects in a painting means creating the changes in color and value that simulate the real-world effect.
Although the effect of light has many, sometimes unexpected, visual impacts – there are certain, tried and true ways of creating patterns of light and shadow in our paintings. In turn, these patterns will seem to reveal form through the illusion of three-dimensions.
This Learning Track includes twenty lessons for understanding and showing the effect of light in paintings. The lessons start with basic ideas and use them to paint more and more complex scenes and subjects.