How to be a Better Artist #4: Learn the Importance of Value

How to be a Better Artist

Learn the importance of value.  What is value in art?  Value is the measure of light and dark.  White being the lightest and black the darkest.  Many value scales have ten steps with black being number one and white being number ten but you can work with a value scale of less say, five or three.

Value is important as it applies to all styles of painting.  For a realist painter the more value a painting contains the more lifelike a painting will be.  However, abstract and impressionist artists will benefit from value too.  Value helps to move the eye around an image, as well as creating a resting place for the eye and adding interest and drama. 

Drama is created by putting very dark values next to very light values.  An artwork does not need to be perfectly balanced between light and dark.  A painting can be predominantly dark such as in chiaroscuro or predominately light but areas of the opposite value will always create drama.

You can create your own gray scale value finder by drawing a row of ten boxes on a piece of paper.  Paint the first box pure black and name it value 1.  Paint the last box to the right pure white and name it value 2.  Next mix equal amounts of black and white and paint the middle box on the row.  This will be value number five.  Keep mixing equal parts of the two values next to each other and painting the box in the middle with the result.  Continue until all the boxes are filled in.  You should see a row of boxes move gradually from black to white in even steps.  Try squinting when looking at the value scale.  If any boxes jump out it means the value is off slightly and should be remixed.  Keep going until you see a smooth flowing value scale.

If you have a piece of work that is hanging around that just doesn’t work or you feel is boring ask yourself if it contains a full range of values.  Are there some very bright areas as well as some very dark areas.  If the answer is no try lightening the lights and darkening the darks.   But remember this doesn’t mean using pure white and pure black.  Mix lights and darks from your main color palette. Lights should be crisp and clean and darks interesting and colorful.

How to be a Better Artist #3

Just start. Don’t wait for the perfect day when you have the house to yourself. Don’t wait until you have entire afternoon to devote to your art. Don’t wait until you have a better brand of paint or that one particular color. Don’t even wait until you are inspired. Just sit down and start. Use what you have. Paint over an old canvas, mix your own colors or do without. Paint your dog or your cat or your half empty coffee cup and the plant that’s sitting in the half light on the window sill. Today more than ever it’s important to use what we have and the time we have. Just start and see where it leads…

How to be a Better Artist #2

How to be a Better Artist

How to be a Better Artist #2

Once you know the medium you want to use you need to know how to use it. We all like to say ‘there are no rules in art’, but there are a LOT of rules in art and you will have an easier time of learning if you know how to get the best from your products.

For example you will have less control of watercolors if you do not stretch the paper before painting and oil paintings may crack or never dry if you don’t follow the ‘fat over lean’ rule and a beautiful graphite drawing may yellow if the paper is not acid free.

Before you sit down to create do an internet search or get a book on your chosen subject and learn a few rules and techniques. It won’t take away all the frustrations but will help the learning curve to flow easier.