Color Gets the Credit, But Value Does the Work

Choose Color Schemes Where Light and Dark Dominate

Translucent Light by Anji Grainger, watercolor painting.
Translucent Light by Anji Grainger, watercolor painting.

Look closely at any painting that draws you in and you will likely find an artwork that uses value in dynamic ways. Value is how light or dark a color is. Adding black to a color gives you a shade of a color; adding white to a color makes a tint. Notable paintings are often celebrated because of color, but oftentimes it is the value of each color used that makes the painting a knockout. Enjoy this gallery of watercolors that put light and shadow to best use, then arm yourself with the inspirational source of them all: Splash 18, Value: Celebrating Light and Dark. You will find 130 luscious paintings from contemporary artists worldwide who can inform your creative process and teach you how to see light and dark in incredible ways. Enjoy!

Courtney

Scarf Dancer by Judy Nunno, watercolor painting.
Scarf Dancer by Judy Nunno, watercolor painting.

Color Schemes with Dark Backgrounds

Using a full range of values was the key to making Scarf Dancer a dramatic painting. Judy Nunno’s reference photo provided details but lacked energy, so she increased its contrast using Photoshop. After masking the white areas, she applied layers of transparent watercolor in a variety of values.

The painting was complete but lacked the “wow.” The artist nervously applied an almost black mixture of Alizarin Crimson, Sepia and Indigo over much of the background. This made the other colors pop and gave the painting the drama the artist sought. Wow.

 

The Birdman by Oscar Dizon, watercolor painting.
The Birdman by Oscar Dizon, watercolor painting.

Make Value Your Chief Concern

Oscar Dizon composed his painting through the camera to simplify and concentrate on his subject. Value is his main concern to achieve an interesting and well-balanced composition. He works in the studio with some sketches and notations made on-site.

The reflections of the beige-colored building and the blue sky in the foreground serve as the lighter and middle values respectively. The intense color of the boat and the dark color of the birds give visual interest to the composition–with a lot of contrast.

Gallop in the Forest by Wen-Cong Wang, watercolor painting.
Gallop in the Forest by Wen-Cong Wang, watercolor painting.

Patterns and Texture to Light and Dark

Wen-Cong Wang is not an artist who rests on his color schemes. The contrasts in Gallop in the Forest are strong, but the artist in fact uses value to leverage texture and texture to leverage value in order to create a convincing scene that sucks you in. The galloping horse doesn’t hurt, either.

Promising Paintings Start with Smart Color Schemes

Learning by looking at great paintings is the luck of the draw for artists. You definitely hit the jackpot with Splash 18, Value: Celebrating Light and Dark. A range of subject matters and styles is represented. The beautiful reproductions leap off the page. Keeping this book close at hand is a must for any watercolor artist.

 

 

 

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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