Value Studies

Value studies are like knitting swatches: a good habit, but not one I do. However, I did some the other day!


Above is, I think, the first one I did. It’s from a photo of Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters. Cobbled streets and old houses, especially on a hillside, are not common around here, so always a pleasure to paint. I tried to simplify everything, looking only for value – light and dark – in the monochromatic painting. In the colored version, I used light and dark coupled with warm and cool colors.

Text books say more intense and warmer colors to the front! Cooler and lighter colors to the rear!

I used Hansa Yellow and Cobalt Violet to create the greys.

Imaginary Lake

This is an imaginary landscape. Payne’s Grey used for the value study. I tried to fade, or lighten, colors the further away they got. Less detail, too, is used to indicate distance. Of course, the use of leading lines and contrast helps things out.

The color version was, again, an effort to use warmer colors to the front, as well as more intense colors; the distance used greyed colors. To achieve the greyed colors, I used complementary colors, such as adding a red to green, or making the colors lighter by diluting with water, or else adding a tinge of blue to all or the preceding. (Sounds complicated, bu it’s not!)

A Wintry Scene to Escape 96F!

Finally, another Payne’s Grey value study for a wintry scene in the mountains using a limited palette. For the colors I used mostly Hooker’s Green and French Ultramarine Blue.

Thoughts on the Value of Value Studies

I am still not sure about value studies! For one thing, the value studies are very different from the color studies in my eyes.  Values in color never equate values expressed in monochrome. Perhaps I am expecting more than I should from a value study.

Many people use pencil for their value studies. Darker values are more easily achieved. These watercolor value studies were hard to get dark enough.

Ultimately, I think I am going to focus on doing a bunch of them, rather than just a few. This way I can determine if pencils or watercolors are best for doing value studies at all. Which one will give me a better sense of light and dark?  As well, the more I do value studies, the more their subtleties should become  apparent.  Perhaps my color studies will begin to reflect better values to display distance in a painting.

All of these studies were done on 9×12 CP 140# Arches, with two sections drawn out on the page. One was used for the value study, and the other for the color study.

Eyes and Bottle

I took a few days off from painting and drawing because I needed to work on some sewing and knitting.  Made a couple of masks, and did a major step in a sweater, and those both took a lot more time than I expected.  But, breaking up patterns refreshes you – like a good vacation!

The next lesson in Keys to Drawing is to draw your own eyes!  I can’t see past my nose without my glasses, so it was a bit of a challenge.  Here I am, blindish and glasses-less.

I look pretty darned paranoid here!  My eyes are wide open and I am trying to see what I am looking at in the mirror.

The next one I did with my glasses on.

Hardly stylish, but at least I could see what I was doing!

Then, a tinted bottle.  As it is in the 90s, I have my water bottle everywhere I go.

Both assignments were to use a pencil, here an HB for both, and use lines.  The bottle neck is a bit small compared to the rest of the bottle – it’s really about 1/3 the bottle’s diameter – and a bit misshapen at the top.  I did have my glasses on when I did it.

As in painting, the idea is to go from the general (shape) to smaller details and to focus on line and shapes, not thinking, “I am drawing eyes” or “I am drawing a bottle.”  Overall, it worked.

Pencil, Ink, and Watercolor

Ahhh.  Frustration.  Nothing like it to make you feel like crap!  Or to push you past your comfort zone.

Comfort zone:  Ink, watercolor washes.

Sort of comfort zone:  pencil drawing.

Disaster!  Warning!  Alarm zone:  Watercolors!  We won’t even consider these at present.

Comfort Zone

There are times when a good book helps you out a lot.  These are studies copied from a book by Claudia Nice.  What is good about these kinds of studies is that there is detail, but not a desire to be so realistic you are going to scream, if super realism is not your thing.  (It’s not mine.)  Here, you will fine stippling and hatching, and cross-hatching.  Each of these brings dimension and texture.  Add some watercolor washes, and it can really make things pop out.

Sort of Comfort Zone

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I have never really done any formal consideration of pencil drawing.  To me it seems counter-intuitive to think about pencil drawings beyond pencil drawings of a casual quality, like the scribbles and doodles students turn in with their work.  Rather, I looked at a drawing book from the library and had a deeper appreciation for the textures pencils can make.  As with pen and ink, stippling and hatching are at work – but so are circles and lines in varying directions, along with lines which depict texture, such as the little hook-shaped lines at the very bottom.

Alarm Zone!

Today, I filled up a palette with watercolor pigments.  Now, I am slowly studying washes and wet-into-wet.  I am also using a whole slough of pigments I have never used and dropping some of my old standbys.  I am feeling like crap.  But, perseverance.  Onward.