On the Value of Values

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I’m thinking about value and contrast, because I find that this is an aspect of drawing and painting that I have much less conscious control over than I would like. Sometimes I hit and sometimes I miss and I don’t necessarily understand why.

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Hoping to learn more I’ve greyscaled the scans of some of my recent sketches, and looking at them I felt like somebody just struck my head with a club. I know all those wise words about how value does the work while color reaps the credit, how a painting works if the values are right and there just is no way to make it right if they don’t etc., but I think I’m just about to start understanding what they mean. Ouch! But look for yourself:

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From all those sketches the one on the left side of the first image was my favourite to begin with, and I find that the greyscale version stands out as well. It looks almost photographic in a good way. Here it is again in a bit more detail:

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This not just made me even more eager to spend some time exploring value and monochrome drawings, but it also reminded me that the means of picture making have to be suited to the subject to be depicted, and that blindly using a standard method of sketching might not be the most satisfying approach. For example I feel that some of the above watercolors might have been happier as line drawings, sometimes color can be downright superfluous, and sometimes it is the lines which aren’t needed.

Some insight into values by people who did not just notice their importance yesterday can be found in the respective blogs of Loriann Signori and Stapleton Kearns.

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