I believe value to be more important to the success of a painting than the actual color used. While we can key a painting’s value to use a limited part of the total value scale, we cannot manipulate values in the same way that we can manipulate color. All good paintings start with good value plans. This arrangement is what gives strength to your paintings.
The Value Scale
The value scale is the scale that we are limited to in pigment between black and white. While we can divide the scale into as many steps as we want, usually it is divided into ten steps or less. I divide this scale from 0 (black) to 9 (white).
A good value plan in a painting usually has four values. When creating a value plan it is better to let one value dominate. The other three values, in total, should make up an uneven division of space, less than the dominant value. With this plan it is a good idea to reserve two values for the light areas and two for the shadow areas. This would be a light and a light halftone and a dark and a dark halftone.
The amount of variety is infinite once you start modeling the large masses and manipulate edges to soften or harden shapes. Remember—the strength of a painting comes from its organization and a unifying idea. It is the way you manipulate reality to get that idea across. Value, more than color, helps you achieve this.
When most people first attempt to paint in oils, they see gray and brown everywhere and they paint shadows black and lifeless.
To keep your paintings from being dull, forget about grays, browns and blacks.
Get in the habit of thinking of color in terms of primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. All other colors are simply combinations of these primary colors. By staying with primary colors, you have a clear color choice from which to relate. It is a subtle difference, but an important one. Once a color choice is decided upon, you can determine its value, saturation and temperature relative to the colors around it. Mixing clean color comes from understanding which primaries are needed in its creation.
To see clean color, you need to carefully consider your palette. To get a more personal color sense, remove all the secondary and tertiary colors from your palette. Mixing the color you see from a limited palette will force you to think about the color you mix and its relationship to the colors around it. This process helps the artist obtain a better understanding of color. I suggest a palette of warm and cool primaries, plus white.
Alizarin Crimson Permanent
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Cadmium Yellow Lemon
If you’re really serious about accurately mixing color, limit yourself to one each of blue, red , yellow, plus white.
Here’s the palette I choose:
Alizarin Crimson Permanent
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Remember to always use real pigments and not hues. Because of the composition of hues, they are not reliable for accurate mixing.
Outcome is more important than Process
Many people delude themselves into believing that a painting is successful because they’ve worked so hard on it. We have all heard the sad tales of the weeks, even months, of work that have gone into the completion of a painting. Unfortunately, these artists have often ignored the outcome, focusing instead on the effort spent on the process.
In art, only the results count
Only a conscious effort towards a predetermined goal with a successful result can create anything worthwhile; anything else is merely an accident—not art.
Becoming a successful artist requires years of practice. The old adage applies to any career or profession—success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. It is most disappointing that, particularly in the field of art, many artists believe they shouldn’t have to practice because art is “creative”. This unfortunate philosophy was launched by the modern art movement and continues today to the detriment of all artists.
To achieve successful results, practice with specific goals in mind
An artist must recognize where they are deficient. It’s not productive to say,
“I’m going to paint better”. That is a meaningless statement. Instead, ask yourself, “How can I improve my paintings?” Isolate your problems and then take a class or workshop from a professional who can successfully target your particular challenges. Insist that your instructor demonstrate how to help you to correct your inadequacies.
When you think you have acquired the new skills, continue to practice. Remember, it might take five or six hundred paintings before you have truly achieved your goal. This is the effort required to become a successful painter. If possible, show your work to your instructor and ask if you have met your objective. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you are successful just because you have worked so hard!
Focused perseverance will undoubtedly produce the desired results