Value Sketch For Composition And Light

This quick tutorial is all about creating a simple value sketch for a strong composition and the depiction of a particular time of day. It is simpler than it seems and is a critical early step in the painting process.  

The Painting Process

Painting is a process.  More than the process that involves getting out the materials, setting them up, drawing the subject on watercolor paper and then jumping into the painting.

Instead, it is a process of deliberate thinking and actions that helps insure the best possible painting at the end.  One of the first steps is to create a strong underlying structure for the painting. This involves a number of considerations but the most important is the arrangement of value and abstract value shapes.  Learn the concept of value and the idea of value composition sketching with this group of lessons.

Value Sketch For Composition and Light

The subject in this scene is a covered bridge that will be painted on an autumn morning. One end of the bridge will be facing and catching bright light from the sun that is still low in the sky.

The value composition sketch must be developed to create a simple, strong two-dimensional structure for the painting while supporting the idea of morning light slanting in from the right.  This short tutorial steps through the process of creating just such a value sketch.

What you’ll need

  • Pencil and any blank drawing paper

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Related Lessons

Color Study For Covered Bridge – Do This Next!

Watercolor color study for a covered bridge in morning light sceneThis quick tutorial shows how to use a color study to develop a subject and idea while testing composition and value structure.

This lesson is really the second step, after the Value Composition Sketch lesson, above.

It is essential for making deliberate choices about the composition before jumping into the painting.

As with the exercise of creating Value Composition Sketches, Color Studies help explore different ideas about the scene or subject for a painting.  The two steps together, Value Composition Sketch and and Color Studies are vehicles for working out composition and are also valuable for  working out potential problems with color, value, technique and more.

Follow the Color Study lesson by going onto the Covered Bridge Painting Lesson, linked below. 

The Third and Final Step – Covered Bridge Painting Lesson

covered bridge in morning light watercolor painting lesson finished workThis lesson is the final step in the three step process that begins with the Value Composition Sketch tutorial, above.

This lesson uses the support of the Value Composition Sketch and Color Study to insure a good painting. The composition has been worked out and colors appropriate to the scene have been explored.  Between those two earlier steps in the process, most problems have been worked out.

At this stage, it is now possible to begin and work through the painting with confidence, giving the media its freedom and allowing it to do a lot of the work for you.

Value and Value Sketching

value composition sketch for a quiet winter stream landscape painitingThe arrangement of large Value Composition Shapes arguably has more to do with the success – or failure – of a painting than anything else.  It is wise and a great investment the success of your future paintings to get familiar with the concept of value, it’s ‘value’ to the artist and the way in which it can be used to strengthen your paintings. 

Value also has a strong role in creating the illusion of light and form as it might appear on a a three-dimensional object. 

This section includes a group of lessons about Value and how to use it effectively in your paintings. 

Value To Color

Getting the Value right for composition and light is one thing.  Getting those same values when working in color is another. 

This set of lessons walks through the ideas and practice of working in color and getting the values intended.  

This is a difficult task and takes practice to get good at it.  It is worth the trouble, since it is critical to ensuring your paintings come out as planned.