Conserving Values

Lately I’ve really been concerned about conserving values. When I first learned to draw, the number one challenge was to see how many shades of grey I could capture in my sketch, after all, the visual world is made of hundreds, maybe thousands of shades from black to white. But the more I paint, the more I have a respect for other artists who exercise restraint with their values, which in the end produces a much stronger image.

Floating, by Robert Lemler
Floating, by Robert Lemler

For an example look at this painting by one of my favorite artists, Robert Lemler. The image on the left is the finished painting, the image on the right is the grey scale version. Removing the color in an image makes seeing the framework of values easier. This painting is mainly composed of three values and a dark accent but wow, the impact!

Painting by Casey Baugh
Painting by Casey Baugh

Another artist I admire is Casey Baugh. Here he uses two values from the high end and two from the low end to produce a more solemn, moody piece.

travelDemo1

I decided to work from this photo. A great subject, but as you can see the scattering of many values makes a fractured image. This happens a lot outdoors in bright sunlight, the camera makes the shadows too dark while the lights get blown out. I decided to keep the girl in the 8 to 9 value range in order to stand out against her surroundings, while everything else in the 3 to 4 value range with a few dark and light accents.

grayscale

Travellr
The Traveler, by Diane Eugster

Conserving the values gave me the cohesion I was after, staying mid to light on the value scale gave the painting a freshness.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Conserving Values”

  1. Adding colour is my last consideration when oil painting, I always start with a sepia underpainting to get the feel of the image then proceed with a monochrome “Dead Layer” to get the values then overpaint it with multiple layers of colour glaze,So I totally agree with you in your blog.

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    1. Keith, yes, color is way over-rated. If the composition and values are good, the color will follow. I like your approach of ironing out the framework in the beginning, than the color.

      Thanks for your input, Diane

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