Combining Value Shapes

Too often the painter sees only the objects in front of him or her and paints what he or she *thinks* she sees.

Hello?  Wait a minute!   We are here to make artwork . . .that is to tune all the parts of a painting so that it arrests the viewer instantaneously.  One of the ways that happens is to pay close attention to the darks and lights in a painting and arrange them into large shapes . . . . .that is to tie the darks together . . .or tie the lights to form big abstract shapes that will form a composition of values (lights and darks).    This sort of attention to the pattern that is formed by the darks and lights leads to unexplainable abstract shapes that sit nicely, in an attractive way, into the rectangular shape of the canvas or paper.  It is the relationship of the placement and the comparison of those large shapes to the rectangle that grabs a viewer.

If you think about it, this is really the basis for very good abstract paintings. . . . . .it is all about composing a great ratio of light within a dark matrix, or, the opposite, putting darks within a light valued matrix.

We are frequently misled by color . . . .that is that color so often resonates with us on an experiential level that we are not conscious of the fact that color has value . . . .that is that a blue can be very dark, or can be wispy light . . .or most other colors (save yellow) can do the same thing.

“Rousillon Repast”
Watercolor, 15×22 inches

In the above painting, there is a strong difference in the value of the light and shadow parts of this painting.   The painter can train themselves to think in terms of light and shadow, instead of values, in order to be able to make the creative steps to connect things to form larger shapes.   Such was the case in “Roussillon Repast” above.   While the subject of the painting under the umbrellas is what the painting is about, it took the surrounding light to emphasize that part of the painting so it would stand out in a dramatically compelling way.  I have added a black and white version of the painting so the viewer can see the relative differences of light and dark and how the darks are connected to form a big compositional shape.

6 thoughts on “Combining Value Shapes”

  1. Hi Mike,
    You are absolutely right. The viewer really doesn't think value; but they are attracted by it. The color is interrupting and some old masters played with color only omitting the lights. But I believe, in watercolors especially, the value is crucial.
    I just recently played with a few of my original (color) images to make them B&W in PhotoShop to see how it looks like. Sad to say, 50% of them did not meet my approval as Black and White model.
    In your artwork I love the "Z" shape of the light that basically brings us under the umbrella and invites us to rest. The light building behind helps to make the round shape to be a focal point of the art piece.


  2. This is wonderful. I am not quite familiar with the internet, but I beleive that what I just read is some good material. Thanks for continuing to write such wonderful articles. God bless.

  3. Your watercolor paintings are exquisite. I was not surprised to see you are in California after seeing some of your landscapes. I love California and I am your newest follower.

    Greetings to you from Wichita, Kansas. I found you on Myrna Wacknov's blog Creativity Journey.

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