Sunday, July 28, 2013

Artist Tip #18 - Design Guidelines: Value Patterns, Part 2

Our last Artist Tip #17 discussed the importance of value patterns to painting design, and suggested doing one or several value sketches to plan the value pattern of our painting.  We introduced six "standard" landscape value patterns, where the foreground, mid-ground, and background each take on one of the three value ranges (light, mid, or dark).  In this tip, we'll introduce several more "standard" value patterns for your consideration.

These four very useful standard value patterns I'll call principal value patterns:

  1. a large dark shape on a mid-value field
  2. a small light shape on a large dark shape on a mid-value field
  3. a large light shape on a mid-value field
  4. a small dark shape on a large light shape on a mid-value field

These are illustrated in the following figure:

The painting Off Port Clyde is an example of principal value pattern 2. The white details next to the dark hull make a striking value statement:

The painting Cotswolds Farmhouse is an example of principal value pattern 3 - the light farmhouse shape contrasts well with the mid-value of the background:

Several other value patterns you may want to consider are light, dark, and mid-value shapes placed adjacent or overlapped throughout the painting, or all 3 values blended across the painting using gradation.

These "standard" value patterns have been presented to help you get started in planning the value patterns of your paintings.  But realize that you can adopt any value pattern that looks good to you - just be sure to do your value planning before you start painting, using small value sketches!  These principles apply to all paintings, regardless of subject.  Still lifes, portraits, and abstracts require the same value planning as landscapes to be successful.  Value is always king!  In the portrait below, Biker, the light value of the beard and the dark background do much more to make this a successful painting than do the colors that are used.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Venice Working Boat - Original Watercolor Painting

Venice allows no land vehicles, so everything and everyone must be moved by boat. In this scene of the Grand Canal, a working boat (truck) plies its trade among the vaporettos (waterbuses), pleasure boats, and Venetian gondolas.

If you'd like to purchase this 11" x 15" original watercolor painting for $200 including shipping within the United States, you can do it securely on my website (click on the image). There are additional paintings for sale there, and my smaller paintings are available on my other website  Add a unique original painting to your collection!

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Artist Tip #17 - Design Guidelines: Value Patterns

In previous artist tips, we covered the elements and principles of design.  Now, we'll cover some design guidelines: a number of suggestions to help us translate the generic principles of design into very practical approaches to improve our paintings.  The first guideline we'll discuss is perhaps the most important one: the creation and use of value patterns.

To be as successful as possible, a painting needs a wide range of values, from the very lightest to the very darkest.  A value pattern is the pattern of light, mid, and dark values in your painting.  The value pattern is king! It is the first thing we see when we look at a painting... before color, texture, etc.  A "good" value pattern will organize your painting and make it interesting.  A painting with a poor value pattern will be boring.

To be as successful as possible, a painting needs the entire range of values, from the very lightest to the very darkest.

So, how do we create a good value pattern for our painting?  The easiest way to plan our value pattern is to make a small, a quick value sketch (perhaps 3x5" or 4x6") of the major shapes in the planned painting, and fill in those shapes with 3 values of pencil shading or marker.  These 3 values represent the 3 value ranges that we discussed in Artist Tip #9.  This is the most important step you can take in designing your painting for success - most serious artists do this!  By doing several different value sketches for the same painting, you can compare several designs quickly and easily, and choose the value pattern with the most impact.  It can thus free you from slavishly copying your subject.  This is a lot better than painting a complete painting and then discovering that it has a weak value pattern and has to be repainted.

Here's an example of a very quick and simple pencil value sketch that I did to plan a painting:  I chose light values for the sky and water, medium for the city silhouette and sails, and dark for the boat hulls.

The corresponding painting was titled Evening on the Bosphorus, and followed pretty closely the value sketch, with a few small variations and enhancements:

But how does one get started on planning "good" value patterns?  One way to start is by trying some "standard" value patterns, which I'll explain here and in the following artist tip.

To begin, consider the following approach for landscape value patterns.  Almost all landscapes have three major shapes:  foreground, mid-ground, and background.  Simply assigning one of the three values to each of these shapes, and then trying several variations, can give the artist several possible value patterns to consider.

Here are a few sample paintings (both Hawaiian subjects) where these "landscape" patterns can be seen.  First, in Kauai North Beach, a dramatic effect was achieved with a light foreground, a dark mid-ground, and a mid-value background:

Our next example, Keanee Peninsula Maui, has a dark foreground, a light mid-ground, and a mid-value background:

In our next artist tip, we'll consider several more general value patterns that can be applied to all sorts of subjects.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Joseph Zbukvic Workshop

I just completed a 5-day watercolor workshop in Fallbrook, California, taught by Joseph Zbukvic, a modern master of watercolor.  Joseph completed over 10 demonstration paintings, all the while drumming into us students the basics of how he sees things, and how he paints.  He was completely free and generous with his insights and information, and spent a lot of time with students individually, helping us each to master the areas where we just "didn't get it".  What a great teacher!  I recommend his workshop to all watercolorists, particularly those who are intrigued by the landscape, and want to paint directly, without endless thin washes, to capture a scene quickly with the sparkle and immediacy of watercolor.  Here's our class; Joseph is in the middle with the "Z+U" shirt:

I've posted Joseph's demos and my own workshop paintings on my Facebook art page.  Enjoy!

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