good values?
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    good values?

    Common wisdom right. You got to get them values right, that's the key.

    The more I paint/draw the more a realize how true that simple statement is. We know a piece has good values because it just looks right and it just sings, but what exactly are good values? What's the "recipe" behind it?

    I'm sure we have all scratched our heads and tried to figure it out, so why why not discuss/analyze it together? Perhaps post some pieces and pick them appart to figure out why they work or why they don't work?

    These are some notes I have been gathering. Probably obvious but I thought it would good starter for this thread.

    Consistency: Obvious one. You can't just slap those lights and darks anywhere. They must be consistent with the form one is trying to portray.

    Conservation of values: fewer -> simpler -> better? Certainly makes the form easier to read.

    Contrast: Must be consistent (it all comes back to consistency really) with lighting and the material your trying to portray. Skin has naturally lower contrast than a rock. Not only because it is just generally light in tone but also because skin lets light trough.

    Value range and value composition: Now this is something I have been trying to figure out recently. It's something I'm strugling with actually. One general rule that seems to ring true is that you can go mostly low key or high key, but you need few values from opposite end of scale to sort of anchor it. Otherwise piece will come out rather dull.


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    You are trying to reinvent the bicycle, it seems.

    Your "conservation of values" is clearly a part of value composition. It can be interpreted as keeping the value structure readable, or clumping values together, but fewer is by no means automatically better. Your "value consistency" is really faithfulness in reading and representing lighting. Real value consistency would mean that you represent similarly lit planes of the same color with the same value, which is a basic requirement if you think of it. Your "contrast", again, is a property of lighting, and you're mixing diverse things into it, from value key to texture and shininess of materials. Part of it is, I think, that you aren't familiar with the lingo and are trying to reinterpret words you don't really know the meaning of or invent new ones.

    Value, ultimately, is about representing the light's effects on form right. Similarly lit planes will be represented by similar values in the picture, imitating the lit scene. Value is also relative; the brightest parts of the scene would be represented by the lightest paint in the picture, while the darkest parts would be represented by the darkest paint - but you don't have to use actual white or black, because of the relativity. What you need is get the value relationships right, not absolute brightness. Make a mistake here, and the lighting will look fake.

    Beyond that, it can be used compositionally, to make certain elements stand out or blend together and lead the eye around the picture. It can also be used to suggest mood, inasmuch as lighting conditions affect our mood in predictable ways. That's value composition, which is a less technical skill and more of a design skill.

    You can also throw it out and use line as your main representational tool (drawing), or use color to stand in for value (fauvist painting). It's not all-end-all, though it is crucial for realistic painting of light.

    I have a question; have you read "Creative Illustration" by Loomis and "Imaginative Realism" and "Color and Light" by Gurney? If yes, you ought to re-read them; you must have missed a lot of things they have to say. If no, then you should go and read them. These books deal a lot with what you are trying to classify here.

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    *Your "conservation of values" is clearly a part of value composition. It can be interpreted as *keeping the value structure readable, or clumping values together, but fewer is by no means *automatically better.
    Actually I have seen the term used in both discussions of whole piece composition as well as discussions of rendering a single object. Certainly it applies to both.

    *Your "value consistency" is really faithfulness in reading and representing lighting. Real value *consistency would mean that you represent similarly lit planes of the same color with the same *value, which is a basic requirement if you think of it.
    Appologies, I wasn't aware of the latter usage of the term. However it seems that you certainly understood what I was talking about so no harm done.

    *Your "contrast", again, is a property of lighting, and you're mixing diverse things into it, from *value key to texture and shininess of materials.
    I don't think I ever mentioned value key nor texture nor specular or diffuse higlights in my short discussion of contrast. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough, but all I was trying to point out was the value separation of lights and darks and how that varies between lighting sittuations and materials.

    *Part of it is, I think, that you aren't familiar with the lingo and are trying to reinterpret words you *don't really know the meaning of or invent new ones.
    I think I do know most of the lingo though probably not all of it. The thing is that there is a lot of art litterature out there and not all authors are consistent with their terminology so that mixes things a bit.

    *Value, ultimately, is about representing the light's effects on form right. Similarly lit planes will be represented by similar values in the picture, imitating the lit scene. Value is also relative; the brightest parts of the scene would be represented by the lightest paint in the picture, while the darkest parts would be represented by the darkest paint - but you don't have to use actual white or black, because of the relativity. What you need is get the value relationships right, not absolute brightness. Make a mistake here, and the lighting will look fake.
    Beyond that, it can be used compositionally, to make certain elements stand out or blend together and lead the eye around the picture. It can also be used to suggest mood, inasmuch as lighting conditions affect our mood in predictable ways. That's value composition, which is a less technical skill and more of a design skill.
    It is known. Good intro, all of it true and repeated hundreds of times in art instruction books.

    I have a question; have you read "Creative Illustration" by Loomis and "Imaginative Realism" and "Color and Light" by Gurney? If yes, you ought to re-read them; you must have missed a lot of things they have to say. If no, then you should go and read them. These books deal a lot with what you are trying to classify here.
    Indeed I have, great reads. Learned lots. Yet, I have to wonder, have you?

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    Good observations - though I'm not sure there is a lot to discuss you didn't cover? Value is such a primary and relatively objective fundamental that there isn't much room for opinions and interpretation.

    As far as "recipes" there are some solid rules of thumb that can help -
    1) Separate value/form into two "families", one that is in the light and one family in shadow.
    2) Never let the lightest note in shadow be lighter than the darkest note in the light (always harder to say than just see).
    3) Don't break up larger masses of value with small notes of contrasting detail - the mass should always hold together.
    4) Squinting simplifies value into larger shapes and lets you see the important patterns.

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