Art: trouble with color value
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    trouble with color value

    Hi everyone!

    I've been realizing lately that when people critique my work, one of the most common things I hear is that I need to push my values more. So I've been doing some black and white studies in acrylics, and I think it seems to be helping me a bit, but I still don't feel like it's transitioning into my color work.

    Is there any advice or resources anyone can give me on color value? Should I start trying to paint over my B&W studies in color? Is there a book or previous thread on the topic that I've missed?

    Thanks!

    Last edited by john.red; December 27th, 2007 at 01:20 PM. Reason: changed post title
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    Learning to hit values accurately is the most important aspect of colour mixing, so give it time. How much time to spend on black and white studies is hard to say - a month , a year - however long it takes for you to feel confident about it. I'd suggest using oils rather than acrylics for this because of the fact that the latter change in value when they dry, but perhaps you've gotten used to this.

    If you haven't tried it already, try painting using a series of premixed greys in equal perceptual steps from black to white. Many artists use a nine-level series, as I discuss briefly here. You'll find this a very powerful tool for thinking about value.

    Some teachers do get their students to apply colour opaquely over a highly finished monochrome painting. This is not the most efficient way of making a painting, but it can help students to produce excellent results given enough time.

    However you paint, when you move on from monochrome to colour make sure that you are still paying as much attention to the greyscale values as if you were painting a monochrome painting.

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    Get a piece of red glass or plastic. View your painting through this. It cuts out the color and you can see the values.

    Also, look at your painting through a magnifying glass. Not from close up but from a few feet back. This cuts out the detail and simplifies your work

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lazy K View Post
    Get a piece of red glass or plastic. View your painting through this. It cuts out the color and you can see the values.

    Also, look at your painting through a magnifying glass. Not from close up but from a few feet back. This cuts out the detail and simplifies your work
    Yeah, I was just wondering if this (the red plastic idea) had ever been done as I read Briggsy's post and his website earlier, I'll definitely have to try it and the magnifying glass as well... Thanks Lazy K and of course Briggsy!

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    Viewing through a colored filter will grossly distort the values you see. For instance, a red filter will cause saturated reds to look the same as white, and blue greens to appear much darker (this is the basis of anaglyph 3-D).


    Tristan Elwell
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    ah that is true...If only I could turn my eyes to greyscale mode

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    you could also try squinting.

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    To better control color values, I would recommend excercises where you paint an object or whole scene all in one color (monochromatic.) It helps you to see a color in isolation, as well as how to control the mixtures as you adjust its value and saturation. You could even add other colors in mixture, so it's not all based on one tube pigment, but keep the result in the same color family.

    "To push the values more" implies to me that there's not enough contrast in your work, having not seen any examples myself. If that's true, try reducing the range of mid-level values in some of your paintings, and work in extremes of lighter and darker values only.

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    I'll second Stephen's suggestion of squinting. And don't make the mistake I made for years of (stupidly) thinking that squinting means throwing your eyes out of focus. You have to actually close your eyelids partway. If you have access to Richard Schmid's "Alla Prima", he explains a pretty methodical way of using squinting as a tool for seeing relative value. It goes something like this:

    - Squinting shows you relative value. So squinting can tell you whether or not something is darker or lighter than something else, not what its exact value is.

    - The more you squint, the smaller the range of values you see, approaching, but never reaching, two values. Basically, things will effectively posterize with fewer and fewer levels the more you squint.

    - It's usually easy to tell relative values of light objects if you squint enough. However it can be more difficult with darker objects that are close in value. You can compare the relative values of two dark objects by progressively squinting more and more. The one that becomes a dark silhouette first is darker.

    - If you are methodical with the techniques above it's pretty easy to establish the major values and then refine. I found after being methodical with it for a while I don't need to use it as much- only when I start getting off or have a specific question.

    It's explained much better in the book (plus, there's lots of other great info in the book, even though I don't agree with everything he says). And it takes some getting used to, but it's nice because it's a fairly objective tool you can use.

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    Understanding how light turns and creates form is the basis of understanding value structure.
    Squinting is a very useful tool but I think it becomes even more useful when you understand
    why something is darker or lighter.


    Light travels in straight rays. Things that are further away from the lightsource
    will be darker then things that are nearer.
    Plane change : things that are oriented further and furher away from the lightsource will gradually become darker.
    These 2 principles we call : Proximity and orientation.

    The exact same principle applies for reflective light in the shadows.

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    drawing, and ugly, and nothing else." JAD Ingres, Ecrits sur l'art
    (1780-1865)"
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