As painters we can get lucky every now and then and hit a home run, but for myself, I’d rather have lots of hits than a home run just every now and then. In other words, I strive to be consistent. This lesson focuses on one of the most important tools at our disposal as painters; the value map.

How do I do that? Well, I’ve thought about what it is that makes a successful painting. I try to do that doing that consistently. You can think of the foundation, the structure of a painting as being its value pattern. Without value we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between objects in our field of vision. In this lesson, we are going to focus on building this foundation.

Once we have the structure, we will be able to translate our value maps into a variety of colors to create different moods and to give more expression to our work. We can explore the vast possibilities of color schemes!

This is a bit different from the other lessons! There isn’t a Follow-Along Demo! We’re working on building a strong foundation for our paintings, then once we have that, we have a great deal of freedom to play with color and use some established color schemes to get us on our way!

When you have a piece or two you can upload one or both images to receive a personal video critique on your work.

Who it’s for – Artist’s looking to be consistent in their work!

What’s it’s About – Building strong value structures in our paintings.

Set a Personal Focus – Maybe trying some color that is a little risky for you!

Set a Time Limit – These are studies, so don’t treat them as miniature paintings! Thirty minutes is probably plenty of time for each study you do.

Materials

  1. Your pastels
  2. Several small pieces of sanded paper. I just used my scraps
  3. Pens, markers or pencils for value studies
  4. Sketchbook or sketchpaper
  5. Sketchbook and pencil or pen
  6. Color Wheel (PDF provided)

Extras:

  1. Easel
  2. Baby wipes
  3. An apron

Value Does the Work
Hue Gets the Glory

As painters we can get lucky every now and then and hit a home run, but for myself, I’d rather have lots of hits than a home run just every now and then. In other words, I strive to be consistent.

How do I do that? Well, I’ve thought about what it is that makes a successful painting. I try to do that doing that consistently. You can think of the foundation, the structure of a painting as being its value pattern. Without value we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between objects in our field of vision. All things separate themselves from one another because of their value. Value is prior to color. Color is subordinate to value. We know this because some humans and animals are colorblind and can still function in the world!

Take a look at these examples. This Rembrandt portrait is as striking and beautiful in black and white as it is in color. So is this piece by Sorolla.

There are some basic value patterns that we can use to help us develop strong pieces that create unique mood and sense of place. We can also rely on value and play with color, simply by swapping out the values of the large masses in our paintings, giving us great freedom to create. The possibilities are virtually endless.

If our paintings have strong value patterns, they will be strong. We want to group together similar values, so there is a dominant value rather than a scattering of shapes of similar size and emphasis. A good analogy for this is walking into a room that has cloths, papers and other materials scattered all about. It gives us a feeling of disarray and unease. We want to clean it up or leave. A painting can give us the same impression by containing a hodgepodge of disorganized shapes.

We want to organize the values in our paintings before we even consider color. We can use these four basic tonal plans to help us. Once I have the underlying structure of my piece laid out, I have much more confidence to explore color and gesture. I’ve essentially built myself a playground within which to play; one where I feel really safe to try new things.

Andrew Loomis said, “If it’s worth painting, it’s worth planning”. That’s what we are going to do! A little planning. We’re going to develop a simple composition that we’ll use for the next series of exercises. Spend a bit of time with it.

Exercise
Value Map

What’s the Objective?
Developing a strong foundation or map
Power of value dominance
Creating mood with value

What you need:
Pencils, markers or pens
Sketchbook or sketch paper
Reference to work from

I’ve chosen a piece of reference that I really like. It’s got strong shapes of a variety of scale and value. It’s has beautiful vibrant color and it’s a place that I’m very familiar with and have an affinity for. I’ve done two value maps in marker, but you can use whatever tools you like, pencil, ballpoint pen whatever you like to use. I’ve done mine a little large! They are about 4”x5”. Yours could be thumbnails. Both of these are very different but what they do have in common is a value dominance, one in the lights and one in the darks. For the dark version, I did not have a reference; I simply swapped out the lights with the darks! This next set is even simpler. See how I’ve simplified my reference? Here are some ideas about how to determine what will make a good reference photo for this particular exercise.

Once I’ve got a good solid value map I’m ready to move onto Color Schemes. That’s what’s next!

Color Schemes
Finding Freedom in Structure

Why bother with these somewhat predictable color schemes? I find that the structure actually is quite liberating. I also find that using schemes can give me color harmony like no other strategy…when colors share a particular relationship on the color wheel, I don’t have to work at harmony nearly as much; it is inherent in the scheme. Color schemes also break me out of my color biases. I think we all have them. We might not even realize that we tend to avoid certain colors in our box. The colors are all there for a reason and we ought to try them. It’s all about the proportions that we use them in. So yes, I believe they are very useful in our painting process. They’re simply another tool.

As a painter, I want to be able to translate my reference material into a variety of colors to create different moods and to give more expression to my work. I don’t want to merely copy my reference. You’ve probably been out painting or shooting photos and been in a beautiful spot, but it’s overwhelmingly green! Having the skill to translate any scene into a different color scheme allows us great freedom to paint anything that strikes us.

We’re going to translate our black and white value map into 4 color studies using established color schemes. Since I have a strong value map to help guide me, I’m much more confident that I can build a pleasing study with these schemes and to be bold and expressive!

I’ve translated my reference material here into two different value maps that I’m going to choose from. They’re very different from one another. One is more faithful to my reference material. But what they do have in common is that they both have a strong value dominance. One is dominant in the lights and one is dominant in the darks. Since I have a strong value map to guide me, I’m much more confident that I can build pleasing studies with these schemes and be more bold and expressive!

Let’s get started on our first scheme.

Exercise
Color Schemes

What’s the Objective?
Use established schemes to explore color
Stretch out of our usual palette
Break out of your color biases

What you need:
Your value map
Your pastels
Several pieces of sanded paper

Complimentary
The complimentary scheme offers lots of visual interest and tension because it’s made up of colors opposite one another on the color wheel. For this reason, it’s also really important to have one color be dominant and one more passive. I can do this by orchestrating the value and intensity aspects of each of my color choices.

Triadic
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities for color schemes. Here are several more examples using another simple composition. These are all small studies done based on one value map. I really encourage you to try some of these as well.

Gamut Masking
To develop this next series of pieces, I used another simple value map. I used the idea of gamut masking to decide on the colors I used for each of them. I pre-selected the pastels, choosing a value and intensity range for each hue. To learn more about gamut masking head to James Gurney’s blog. It’s a wonderful blog. He also does a wonderful video on vibrant color mixing with a co-primaries palette.

These two studies were done with the idea of compressing values meaning using only a small portion of the value scale to build the painting. This one is using all shades, colors with the addition of black or gray and this one tints or colors with the addition of white or gray. These kinds of schemes can be very powerful, think of Monet’s painting or Rembrandt’s self-portrait.

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2011/09/part-1- gamut-masking- method.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfE4E5goEIc

For more ideas on established color schemes take a look at Steven Quillers’ wonderful book Color Choices. You could spend years and not exhaust all the possibilities here!

When You’ve Completed Both Part 1 & 2
When you’re done, click here to upload pics of your painting and I’ll send you a Personal Video Critique. I’m curious what you’ll come up with! The first critique request is a free bonus for you. If you’d like additional critiques, normally a Personal Video Critique is $97 but you can send a message my support team to get a discounted critiques package – I’ve already told them that since you are taking lessons from me, you get at least 40% off.

If you aren’t ready for a personal critique from me, then be sure to upload your work to our Community page where your peers can take a look. I often comment on the Community submissions as well – it won’t be a video critique but I really enjoy seeing your work and helping you when I can.

The Stages

  1. Planning
    • Crop your reference, (feel free to crop it just like mine or change it up a bit).
    • Do a quick 5 to 10 minute thumbnail. This is a great way to get a feel for the piece and visualize the final version.
  2. Drawing
    • Scale up your thumbnail to the correct proportion Watch my video on scaling a sketch!
    • Lightly sketch in the essential shapes
    • Use your thumbnail sketch more than your photo reference at this point
  3. Blocking In
    • Establish the essential shapes of the piece, (3 to 5 largest shapes) Use the sides of the sticks)
    • Establish the values of those main shapes. What is the overall or average value of each shape?
    • Get a feel for how the piece works as a whole.
  4. Adding On
    • Add a variety of hues, and intensity to each shape.
    • Add texture and smooth out gradations where needed. Watch my video To Blend or Not to Blend.
    • Add a light source or direction of light.
    • Add detail.
  5. Finishing
    • Resolve any areas that need attention or TLC.
    • Slow down make color adjustments where needed.
    • Go the extra mile and exaggerate contrast and intensity where needed. Give yourself permission to do this!
Value Mapping & Color Schemes
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Enjoy “Value Mapping & Color Schemes”!

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Ctrl-Click (MAC) and choose “Save File As”
Right Click (PC) to download files.


Click Here to Download the Image PDF

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