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The Value Challenge
posted by Carol Marine on Saturday May 21, 2011
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This week’s challenge might seem a little boring, but I assure you it’s one of the most important concepts to get! Be as accurate with value as you can - only then will your scenes appear 3-dimensional.

But there’s another important aspect to value - using it to create dynamic compositions. If you divide your values into 3 categories: light, medium and dark, you can vary the amounts to make your compositions more interesting. That’s the theory anyway. If you look at the 2 examples you will see they are both dark dominant, or rather, the dark part takes up more than half of the room. Of what’s left, either medium or light takes up most of that, and you’re left with a small amount of the last value - what I call a smidge.

For this exercise, instead of using just those 3 values, we will expand them to a whole range: lightS, midS and darkS. So when you do your painting, you can paint ALL the values you see - just arrange it so you have a dominant amount of one value range (lights, mids or darks), a secondary amount of another, and a smidge of another.

For you guys using oil, paint on a burnt umber ground, wipe it down to a mid value, paint in the darks, and wipe out for lights (with paper towel or q-tips - try dipping in mineral spirits for the really white stuff). Use ONLY burnt umber (or raw umber if that’s all you have) - no white!!! For those using acrylic, you can mix your values with black and white.

You can paint any subject you like, but don’t use any colors. Remember that you are in full control of your values. If the values don’t line up the way you like, change the crop, change the subject, change something that changes the values.

If you’re still having trouble with the concept, imagine you were going to take a photo of your setup and cut it into little squares. Then you put all the dark squares in one pile, the mid values in another and the lights in another. The biggest pile will be dominant. The smallest will be the smidge.

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