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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Using Vivid Colour to Flex Your Value Muscle

"Red on Red"
Oil on Canvas - 6x6"

(*Note - all proceeds from the sale of this painting will go to Typhoon Relief in the Philippines. These funds will be matched equally by the Canadian Government, so you'll get an awesome new painting and do a whole lot of good at the same time!)

Dive In to Some Serious 'Seeing' Bootcamp

One way to build your skill at seeing value is to paint your subject with a palette that is limited to varying shades of grey. Another is to paint it in colour and then use a photo to check out how you did in black and white, as in the example above.

Choosing a subject to work from that is monochromatic and colourful is a powerful way you can challenge yourself to represent value accurately in your paintings, and it works an extra muscle at the same time. You're not just challenged to see value, but to mix the nuances of it correctly in one colour. This throws a whole new ball in the air.

Play With Creative Combinations

Try this exercise with every colour in the wheel. (Wait 'til you get to yellow on yellow - seriously tough one.) Then photograph your paintings and turn them into black and white to see how you did. This will tell you immediately if you've nailed your values or not.  If it reads, you have taken another step forward in learning how to see value in colour - and bonus, you have a cool painting! If not, you have some info about where you need to keep working. :-)

I am a huge believer in carving out time in our painting world that is solely dedicated to working on skills, with no attachment to outcome. It is not enough to just paint a lot of paintings, it's important to focus on our weaknesses if we want to become really skillful. Keeping an eye on intentionally working with them is dedicating yourself to mastery, and it can't help but show over time.

Painting is easy. Painting well is not - don't forget to eat your veggies you amazing artistic souls!


  1. Great painting Liz! Great advice too! I also believe in pushing myself artistically. That is the really great thing about painting...there is always something new to learn.

  2. You really nailed it on this one. I love that there is no "there" in art. (You are never there.) Always something else to learn. I will use this valuable exercise in my class for sure! Thank you!

  3. Your blog today is terrific. What a wonderful set of exercises followed by the caveat that "Painting is easy. Painting well is not". I am a total believer in daily painting. That, for me, improved my painting more than any one other single thing.

  4. Liz, I haven't checked out your blog recently, and I see that I have missed this wonderful red on red painting. Great idea and creative lesson on value. Thanks.

  5. Terrific lesson on value, so solid in b&w, too. Great job.

  6. Not only a valuable exercise, it's also a powerful work of art.