More thoughts on values..

losthillsdesolation_B&W      losthillsdesolation (click to enlarge)

The most misunderstood topic in painting. Value is not color, Color is not value although all colors have value. Think of value in terms of contrast on your tv or computer monitor. You ever take all the contrast out? It turns into a milky soup of nothingness. Then put all the contrast in and it becomes a supernova of darkness! I guess too much and too little is never a good thing, kind of like in real life!

Values only work when they interact with each other. They are mutually dependend. A dark is only dark because there’s something light there. A light section only appears very light because there’s very dark stuff around. If it all had the same intensity..well, refer to the first paragraph.

A good exercise is to do a value study with only three or four different values. The painting I posted has more nuances, but really only two more! The ability to express yourself in a limited value pattern is the most important key to learning to paint well. Check out the b&w version above and count the values!

What you see in front of you when painting outside (or on the photograph) is just the basis for a good composition. Don’t paint what IS there, but what SHOULD BE there or in other words, paint the idea of what’s there!
Combine similar values, avoid having too many darks in the light area, and too many light values in the shade. Limit details to the area in and around the focal point.

Turning a scene into a strong painting requires some thought.
The painter’s job is to manipulate reality to suit his or her purpose by letting values melt together to form a unity. After all, a good painting should be the goal, not an accurate rendering. Read this last one again!
When we merge shapes by unifying values, we achieve an increased abstraction of the overall composition. This makes for a stronger painting that transcends the “pretty, or cute picture”.

You learn only by doing. Someone who only reads cookbooks will never be a good cook. You actually have to cook. A LOT! All this talking about painting is, in the grand scheme of things, baloney – a waste of time – i.e. you and me could be painting right now! But of course, we all have to start somewhere and good guidance is essential and can actually speed up the process of becoming a better painter! It is a tough road to make all the mistakes and work your way through it without any help. I recommend attending the workshop of a professional artist you like. After that, you just paint!
Watercolor technique is not that difficult. It is made difficult by bad teachers.

2 thoughts on “More thoughts on values..

  1. Monarch

    Absolutely. When I paint horses, they can be orange or violet. Yes, color can contribute to a good painting, but value is absolutely essential to a successful painting. I rarely paint without doing a value sketch first. I call this my map. As long as my values are correct, I can use whatever colors I choose. Of course, adjusting those colors for temperature will push a painting into the realm of sublime!

    1. frankeber Post author

      Well said! Value study is always a good idea, especially when we’re not so sure if it works or not. Temperature sets the mood of the piece! Thank you for a thoughtful comment, Cheri!

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