The Strength of Value

Armand Cabrera

In an older post I talked about values and how important they are to the success of a painting. The arrangement and design of your values are the underlying strength for most successful pictorial compositions.

Good value foundations in your picture do more than make a strong painting; they provide a secure framework for experimentation with the other aspects of your creativity. It is the cornerstone for the complexities of brushwork, paint calligraphy, edges, motif and the other components of color. A strong  value foundation frees you from subject, allowing a more personal vision and expression to emerge in your art. It is the anchor to help you explore away from convention and cliché.

This Bob Kuhn painting exemplifies the idea of value as foundation for exploration of mood. This piece is a powerful image in black and white. The design and spotlighting of the animals, coupled with the de-emphasis of the background set the pictorial stage perfectly.

A strong value plan makes color choices easier. Good color comes from good value, and when you are careful in your value selection for a painting, the hue can be almost anything. By deciding the value plan first, the saturation for your hue choice is also easier, since only certain colors can retain their full saturation at any given spot on the value scale.

By isolating the value component of your design; you open color to be used for other aspects of your image and strengthen it in a more controlled way. Once value is established, color becomes freed up and can be used to explore mood (influential) and emotion (experiential) as another part of the unifying idea to strengthen your work.

Here is the same image; it is even more powerful in color. He has chosen to show the killing of this bull by altering the normal color of the background, the connections to his color choice are powerful for the viewer; its impact immediate, believable and emotional. A normal treatment of the environment would have created a lesser painting.

Painting by Robert Kuhn and the image copyright is held by the Robert Kuhn estate.