Friday, July 16, 2010

A value = color thingy

Here's a painting I was sent recently for a critique. It has a problem I see very frequently. In fact when I teach workshops about half of my students have it. The problem lies in establishing the "key" of the painting.

This painting has the middle values and the darkest darks. The clouds are a high value but nothing else is. What happened is this.


He, she or it looked out on that field and saw that it was very green, to get that green they assumed they needed lots of green pigment and they loaded it into the note until it was a low value. They mistakenly assumed that a strong color was a dark color. Once they had done that, the painting was keyed really, really low. In order to paint the pine trees they had to drop them almost to black in order to get them to be enough darker than the grass.

Their lights are painted in a middle-low value and the darks are ink. If they were to do it again, I suggested they take a Munsell scale out when they paint ( that's one of those value charts that run 1 to 10 ) and set their lights at about 2 . Then they would have lots of room to place the lower values without having to go so dark.

I was taught to start a painting by "keying" it. I no longer do this, except instinctively, but I learned after getting a rough drawing or rub in, to find and place my darkest dark and my lightest lights. Often I would paint the sky first contrasted with something that came up against it. That established the value range in which the picture would be placed.

Value is more important than color, as it is a part of drawing., Color is a decoration you hang on your drawing. Since it is so important to get the value right.


If you are in California and would be interested in a potential workshop there in the early fall, please e-mail me and let me know. If I have a few takers I will schedule one.

17 comments: said...

Great lesson. As you know, I LOVE color (as the artist that loves color too much) and even I think VALUE is more important than color. Can't say that too much or too often along with draw, draw and draw.

Mary Byrom said...

Totally! This is great. The color/value thing is difficult for many to see. Keying in a painting is an easy way to deal with this. I was trained to key in a painting. After you do it enough it comes naturally. Then you can consciously choose the key to convey your idea.

R Yvonne Colclasure said...

eStape, value has always been my weakest area. Would you do a demo to show us what a proper lay in should look like? Thank you. If you don't grow weary of all this, I may finally "get it".

billspaintingmn said...

There are times when I think I know this, then times when I don't.
Trying to mix a color to match a grayscale value, finding my light at 2 and darkest dark at (?) 8 ...
suddenly I'm all thumbs.
I join Yvonne in her statement.

Debra Norton said...

I learned the hard way that the "darkest dark" on my painting doesn't have to be the "darkest dark" on my palette. A lesson learned the hard way is seldom forgotten. Thanks for your wonderful blog!

Tim Fitzgerald said...

My problem exactly!!!!!
I see your back in American Art Review with a couple of very familiar paintings to anyone who follows your blog.
Tim Fitz

alotter said...

I'm back after ten days, four of which were fill with rigorous painting, and I'll bet you didn't miss me a bit.

With respect to the patient painting, could you comment on the brush strokes? Is it OK to have visible strokes all heading in one direction? I found it distracting, but maybe in person, eyes on the real painting, it works.

Robert J. Simone said...

"He, she or it...."! Harsh, very harsh. Excellent analysis, though. Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Color is nice, values are essential.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hi there! Keying a painting becomes a design choice after years of observing your key.

Stapleton Kearns said...

OK I can do that, I have a few more e-mailed questions I want to deal with first.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I wonder if hitting each of the values on a grayscale with the same hue would be a good exercise. Let me think about that. Might be a lesson in there somewhere.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I think I learned most of what I know about painting by doing it wrong a whole lot of times first.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I thought about that when I used them, but they were in galleries that I wanted to promote.I don't know how much overlap there is between blog readers and the Art Review clientele.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I could write a post on that. I too find it distracting. I assume you mean diagonal strokes. I think it is a painted adaptation of the "schoolmaster" style of drawing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I wished to conceal the gender and specie of the painter I was critiquing.

Gin said...

im glad i came across this website in my search to understand 'Value'.