Principles of Composition #2 Values

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on 17 Jan 2011 9:29 AM

Values are the most important element of your painting.

Values refer to lights and darks.

Lights and darks create contrast.

Strong contrast attracts interest.

Your painting needs values (contrast) to be successful.

Values are the most important element of your painting.

So now you are saying to yourself, that is so basic.  Yes, it is.  We are dealing with the basic elements of composition since we have several brand new artists.  However, everyone of us needs this study.  I have been searching for paintings to use as examples of strong values and they are difficult to find.  Some very fine artists who have tons of knowledge still neglect this element of composition.

A painting that is well done but lacks values is dull.  The darks and lights give it pizazz and strength.  A painting without values looks flat.  Values create the three dimensional effect.  People are drawn to a painting with strong values.  Values create interest.

There are many aspects of values to cover but we will begin with shaping and molding object by using lights and darks in the form of highlights and shadows.

Here is a simple example.  Notice the orange circle on the left.  It looks like a flat disk.  However, even a disk has some highlights and shadows.  Also, it looks like it's floating. 

Now, notice the orange circle on the right. The first thing was to decide what direction the light is coming from and darken the shadow side that isn't getting as much light.  Then lighten the side that is getting light.  To keep it from looking like it is floating, it was anchored by a shadow.  We will look more closely at shadows later in this study.

Now does it look like something?  The highlight and shadow give is shape and makes it appear round.

 

When we are challenged by a blank sheet of paper to make it into something that appears three dimenional, these are the tools we will use.  For this reason it is a good idea to advoid using photographs that were taken with a flash.  The flash washes out the colors, lightlights and shadows and we have a difficult time getting a 3D appearance.  We should take our reference photos in strong natural light.

Even photographs that are taken in good light, appear two dimenional.  To get our work to look three dimentional, we need to emphasize the hightlights and shadows even more than in the photo.

 

 

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on 17 Jan 2011 9:46 AM

This is a value chart which was created on white paper with a soft graphite pencil.  You should have a chart like this nearby when working on your paintings and refer to it making sure that you have values as dark and light as on the chart.  You should have at least one of the middle values but preferably more.  Making this chart would be good for the few people who are learning to use colored pencil since it will give you a feel for how much pressure to use to get the values you want. 

Following is a simple demo of using colored pencil to create a pear.  Again, decide what direction the light is coming from.  If you wish, make a small arrow on the paper pointing in the direction the light is coming from.  Make it light so that you can erase it.  The demo will use layered colors which is a process that can be used with colored pencils, soft pastels, oil pastels and even watercolor can be layered with light washes.  The first step is to put down a base coat of yellow.  Don't forget to leave some whites for the highlights.

That yellow will show through the next layers.  Now we add some of the colors of the pear being sure that they are unevenly distributed.  Light orange and soft green were added. 

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on 17 Jan 2011 9:56 AM

 

 Now we get stronger and brighter with the colors.  Red and darker green were added to the colors already mentioned.  You can control how light or dark the color will be with pressure.  Don't let your pencil point get too dull. Sharpen it often. 

Finally, we get good and dark in the shadow area and add some speckling and a shadow to anchor it.  Notice how we nearly lost the line between the pear and the shadow.  It's dark enough there that you can't see details.  We also need to add highlights and shadows on the stem.

Don't be afraid of the darks.  

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on 17 Jan 2011 10:12 AM

Here are some paintings where values are used well.  I'll try to give them all a name so that you can comment and discuss them by name.  There is some nice work here.  Please take the time to look closely at these painting and notice the 3D effect of using strong values.  Also, notice how alive these paintings are.

Rainbow Trout again by salven. Acrylic. Notice the fish and how the light on his back draws your attention.  The center of the fish has medium values and his underside is dark.  As a result, he looks quite rounded and 3D.  Salven obviously isn't afraid of the dark.

Granddad is a monochromatic portrait in watercolor by LuluNZ.  She said she has to keep reminding herself to get darker but, as you can see, it pays off.  This face is as round as the pear due to values.

 

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on 17 Jan 2011 10:16 AM

Eggs in a Bowl by Marina.  Soft Pastels  Very strong darks.  Very 3D.  Marina isn't afraid of the darks.

 

Orange and Blue also by Marina.  Soft Pastels. Great molding of the shapes and shadows.

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on 17 Jan 2011 10:23 AM

 

 Cows again by Rob Adams.  Watercolor.  This time, you're looking at the light, dark and middle values of the cows.

 

Buttermilk by Fergus.  Egg tempura.  A dark, deserted old shack with everything inside rotting away.  Look closely and decide where the light is coming from.

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on 17 Jan 2011 10:30 AM

Seeking the Light watercolor by Ellen.  Very beautiful, interesting and vibrant painting.  I'm interested to hear your take on the values.

Easter 1964  This is a self-portrait that I did a few years ago of myself when I was 24 yrs. old.  It was done with nothing but a white pencil on black paper.

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Turps245 wrote
on 17 Jan 2011 11:26 AM

Wow Sammy! Great thread and as you say we all need to pay attention to it. Love that self portrait and it looks like you. Will comment later but wanted to say thank you so much for all the time and patience you put into these threads. Jen

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holland2 wrote
on 17 Jan 2011 1:06 PM

Thanks for this new lesson, Sammy!  I do struggle with value - I have to really force myself to exaggerate, because what looks right to me with "my nose up close" turns out too drab in the end.  AND - I don't usually notice until it's either too late or until I post a photo.  Your examples are really DYNAMIC! 

 Do we have an assignment this time or did I miss seeing it? 

I am struggling with some value (and hue) issues with my Christmas Cactus now. 

I agree with Jen about your self-portrait.  It's just fantastic!   Easter 1964 - yep - I remember the hats - loved 'em!

Holly

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on 17 Jan 2011 3:04 PM

Holly, I didn't give an assignment but I think it would be good if everyone did a simple drawing in color or graphite and made the values strong.  It could be a ball, banana, pineapple, anything simple  You won't be afraid of ruining a little sketch and it will give you the freedom to get bold.  A frequent little drawing instead of doodling while on the phone or watching TV is a good idea.  You might actually like what you create.  If you do, post it.  Sam/Sammy

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Turps245 wrote
on 17 Jan 2011 10:44 PM

Sammy: I didn't have a handy vegetable but I had a book of photos of the curly one next to my chair so did this sketch while watching TV. It's just a 2b pencil in my sketchbook. I need to get some darker ones if I do much of this as I couldn't get very dark with them. Took the lights out with the kneeded eraser. Jen

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on 18 Jan 2011 6:23 AM

Jen, good idea to lift the lights out with an eraser.  Nice drawing - I like the folds in the sweat shirt, particularly the hood.  Show it to us again when you get a darker pencil.  Maybe black conte crayon or chalk coal.  The pencil I used to make the value chart was B but it was a drawing pencil.  You inspire me to get out a notebook and start sketching.

Is the curly one your son? Sammy

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holland2 wrote
on 18 Jan 2011 9:51 AM

Hi Sammy - I tried your pear - it kept growing - and growing - and growing - - - and then lost a lot of it's pear shape Surprise!!  This is done with Derwent Colorsoft - I have had this set of 12 for years and have never used them so I decided I would try, since yours was CP.  I think mostly I don't know the properties of CP but I also think I missed the values mark, too. (Also, the stem looks like it was just stuck on at random and I don't know how to correct that other than start over.)   Oh well - here it is.  Photo taken with cell phone, so it's a little off, but not too much.  C & C - PLEASE!

Holly

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on 18 Jan 2011 11:49 AM

Holly, your pear is like me.  It just keeps growing and now it is out of shape.  Actually, although that is true of me, your pear is not out of shape.  Pears don't have any particular shape - just bulges.  I think you did an excellent job with it.  Very nice colors.  I don't use my Colorsoft very often but enjoy them when I do.

My suggestions would be to go over the green lightly with a dark red to gray it down a bit.  Lightly, let the red go past the green into the surrounding yellows.  I think it would look nice if you put some orange over the yellow that goes in a stripe down the center of the pear so that the highlight area is the lightest.  Nice shadow.  The stem is fine.

You, Jen and Alex have inspired me to do some little paintings like this to try out some of the materials I haven't used for a long time.  I just smeared some Pan pastel on a sheet of paper and love how it want one.  Maybe later today, I'll post a pear in Pan Pastels.

Sammy

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on 18 Jan 2011 11:56 AM

Everybody take note of he shadow of Holly's pear.  It is darker close to the pear and fades out as it moves away from the pear.  That often happens.  The pear is blocking the light in the areas that are close but as the shadow moves away from the pear, surrounding light makes the shadow lighter.

The shadows under the pear photo that Holly posted are strong and have sharp edges.  That because those pears were sitting on my counter top and the light source is the ceiling canned light.  That strong light is the reason for the sharp shadow.  If the light was softer, the edges of the shadow would have just kind of faded away and not been so sharp.  I'll try to find some examples.

Hope I haven't confused you.  Sammy

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