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Identifying and Recording Values (1/3)

Author: Susie Short, Contributing Editor

One way to see and identify values is by making small rough drawings called thumbnail sketches. They serve two purposes. They help to determine the dominant value for the whole scene, which helps to set the mood, and they easily manipulate the contrasts between specific areas in the scene, which makes the final picture easier to read. A good thumbnail will save you from making adjustments later in the painting process.

sstrees.jpg (13433 bytes)
Making a Thumbnail Sketch 

To determine the values, squint at your subject.

Simplify the shapes.  Study the location of contrasting values.  Identify the light, medium and dark value masses.

Sometimes it is easier to see these shapes in black and white rather than in color.

ssgrayscale.jpg (14939 bytes)
For your first thumbnail sketch, draw only the outlines of the simplified shapes.  Later we will make value variatiions within these shapes.

Pay attention to the edges of these shapes. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces interlock with each other to create the whole picture.


ssdraw.jpg (10064 bytes) Shapes do not exist in isolation, they all interact and connect. And these shapes can be either positive or negative to the adjoining shape.

Using a full value range, select the light, middle, and dark values.  Basically a light value should be placed against a dark one and a dark against a light.  This is sometimes referred to as a checkerboard concept.  You will probably have to make some adjustments to the values in your thumbnail sketches to achieve sufficient contrast even though these adjustments may vary from what the scene really looks like.  It is ok to do this!
On the next page you will find some examples of black and white thumbnail sketches.

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