Often I hear teachers, including myself, describe values as the structure, framework or foundation of a painting. And it’s true, they are. But, how excited can we get about that? It sounds more like something we have to do or should do to get to something more exciting or interesting. Sort of like taking your vitamins. Color, on the other hand, is often described as something that is fun, exciting, vibrant, engaging or yummy. Like dessert. Clearly, values need a good PR firm and a brand makeover!
Of course values are not separate from color, either as a concept or as a practical matter. Value is an attribute of color–and its most important one for painting. In fact, value contrast has the most visual weight–meaning eye attraction– of any of the color contrasts we study in our Practical Color Mixing class. So it really makes sense to think of it more as an important ingredient of color. After all, you wouldn’t leave the sugar out of the brownies! In fact, it’s such an important ingredient, we dedicate an entire class to it in Understanding Values.
No matter what style of landscape painting you prefer or practice, value is the key ingredient of color. Here are a few examples :
The greyscale of this gorgeous painting by Spanish impressionist Joaquin Sorolla shows a masterful control of values.
In this painting by Russian master Isaac Levitan, we can see how the simplification of big shapes of value and contrasting values have a strong impact.
Finally, this beautiful tonal painting by Emil Carlson demonstrates how even close value ranges require careful orchestration,
P.S. Start your year off right and study with us in 2023! Understanding Values in the Landscape + Practical Color Mixing for Landscape Painters (at a Bundle price!) will give you a solid understanding of color! Join us!