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Old 01-18-2007, 10:57 PM
wpy wpy is offline
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Why is value so important?

I have heard many artists say things like "value" is the most important design element in a painting, or that color is not as important as value, or value does all the work but color gets all the credit. None of them ever explains why this is so. Why is value -- the lightness or darkness of a color -- so important to a painting?
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Old 01-19-2007, 01:28 AM
holidayhanson holidayhanson is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Why is value so important?

I cant explain why but do this exercise in pencil and it will be very clear to you.

Make a value scale with 9 squares. Square 1 is white, and 9 is as dark as you can make it with that pencil. Number each square. Fill in square 1 with nothing, leaving it paper white. Next fill in square 9, dark as you can. Then fill in the value of the square between 1 and 9, square 5. It should be half way between white and black. Next shade in the square between 1 and 5, square 3, which will be half way between value 1 and 5. Continue this process until you have 9 values ranging from white to black. This is your value scale.

Next find a black and white image which has both white and black in it and a range of mid-tones. Put a grid over the image. Now draw a corresponding grid on a separate sheet of paper. Each grid square on your paper fill in solid with the general value of the corresponding grid square from the photograph. If you can match the values correctly you will clearly see the importance of value and understand why color really has not a whole lot to do with it all. Set your completed grid of values accross the room and take a look. You will see your image clearly yet really all you did was fill in the value.

Sometimes when painting it is easy to be tricked by color, thinking you are making something light or dark using color when really you need to adjust your value. It is a difficult concept to grasp without going through some elementary exercises.

If you do this exercise will you post it up...both your value scale and value grid drawing?
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Old 01-19-2007, 04:38 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Value is so imporant to an effective composition, because value (the darks and lights within an image) establish depth to shapes, and help direct the eye around the artwork. This is accomplished through Contrast, where lights and darks meet. The sharper the contrast, the more visual attention it attracts. The main focal point of a work is where you usually will find the highest value contrast.
Value is the most important design element of an artwork, because it visually determines the perception of of space, depth, and form.
Areal Perspective is a prime example of the importance of value. As distance increases, the contrast decreases. As the distance decreases, the contrast increases.
A good work is structured on Value, and decorated with Color.

~M
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Old 01-19-2007, 12:34 PM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wpy
I have heard many artists say things like "value" is the most important design element in a painting, or that color is not as important as value, or value does all the work but color gets all the credit. None of them ever explains why this is so. Why is value -- the lightness or darkness of a color -- so important to a painting?
Value is not necessarily the most important thing, or even necessarily important at all. You have to remember that there are many different ways of painting, and many different ways to look at paintings--as many different ways as there are painters and viewers.

The way to approach it is to build an awareness of the basic things that you have control over as an artist--you're basic toolbox: things like value, shape/form, line, hue, texture, etc. (a full list could be very long depending on how fine-grained you want to make it to build an awareness of the things you can control or manipulate) and the relationship of those things to each other. Then you want to build an understanding of some of the things that you can accomplish, as you see it with yourself functioning as a viewer, by varying those elements in different ways. There are a lot of interesting things you can do with value. Some are suggested by others in the thread. You might not see it the exact same way that they do, but it's important to experiment with it and see what it does for you. And maybe you'll find value useful to concentrate on heavily in your work, and maybe not. Once you begin to understand what each of those things are better and what changing them can do--by doing experiments with them, it's also helpful to look back at the work of artists you admire and see what they concentrate on and understand better on a technical level why those paintings work for you as a viewer. There is no shortage of examples of paintings that have little value variation but that are very successful (in my view, at least). This includes quite a few paintings by Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and others. In my opinion, you're not going to get any better paintings than those, although there are some that I like as well.

The bottom line is producing images that you like the look of, and technique, composition, etc. should be approached from the angle of building a tool box/learning how to use the tools well and reaching a better understanding of why you like what you like.
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Old 01-19-2007, 06:25 PM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Re: Why is value so important?

some good things said already...

I'll make two comments....one is that many artists will criticize those that call themselves colorists whose works are so out there to the point of being unbelievable that the emotion they wish to convey is lost. When that happens it is because the colorists have lost the place of importance values should be having in their work.

My second is that Emile A. Gruppe (master artist and teacher of the mid 1900's) said that you can use nearly any color to represent nature so long as your values are right. After my experiments this past year...I believe he is absolutely right about that!

Larry
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Old 01-19-2007, 11:49 PM
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Re: Why is value so important?

This has been an interesting discussion so far. Could those who have posted opinions could take a minute and post a link or two with examples? preferably from a master? This has certainly given me a lot to think about
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:48 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Values can be important within a painting for sure.

However, in a painting of red geraniums against green leaves, value is not as important, perhaps. The colors in the photo below contrast enough to be vivid and 'pop'....but the values between flower and leaves (below) are nearly the same.
Here is the natural geranium:



Here is the black and white version of that geranium above - not many value contrasts between the leaves that are next to flower, is there?:



Some of the master's used the near value temperature contrasts (such as in the geranium above)....some preferred the value contrasts.

Here is this same geranium with higher contrasts



Now here it is in color.


I don't know how all of you feel, but my preference is for the 'near value' one at the top of this post because it looks more natural and not 'cartoony' as the bottom one is.

Therefore to make something POP....either use value contrasts (light against dark) or temperature contrasts. Both will work to make the viewer stop and look.
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:52 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Try this experiment with the Monet painting.

http://webexhibits.org/colorart/monet.html

Then read the rest of the article. It is quite a revelation to some, or, at least it was to me when I read it.
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:19 AM
Enchanted Enchanted is offline
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Re: Why is value so important?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celeste McCall
Try this experiment with the Monet painting.

http://webexhibits.org/colorart/monet.html

Then read the rest of the article. It is quite a revelation to some, or, at least it was to me when I read it.

WOW!!! Great web site and a HUGE THANK YOU! for the reference.


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Old 01-21-2007, 10:28 AM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Re: Why is value so important?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassieFoxkit
This has been an interesting discussion so far. Could those who have posted opinions could take a minute and post a link or two with examples? preferably from a master? This has certainly given me a lot to think about


well....I mentioned Emile Gruppe...so I'll post a few of his...



as Emile stressed that near any color scheme could be formulated so long as values are right...

but to get a gist of such from him...I'll need to post a few more..













getting values down allows you to use many color strategies...and pull off an emotive result. Of couse...it helps to understand color strategies!

its about things feeling convincingly here...in the middle, and way back there. Values, color temperature, treatment of detail and edges...all work hand in hand...

In my partner forum of helps and demos for artists....I have an archived thread called,
"Progression of Regression in Color and Values"
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=290252

and based on a trip back to the west side of our state of Wisconsin where I did some painting with a friend (and used to live), put together an image demonstration of outdoor settings, used photoshop and powerpoint to illustrate how color and value works. I think it'll be time well spent checking it out...

enjoy...
Larry
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 01-21-2007 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:31 AM
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Celeste McCall Celeste McCall is offline
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Re: Why is value so important?

Here is another example for the use of near values being perferred over high-value contrasts:


Here is a black bull that is easily seen. His outside shape is intact. The highlights are dark gray on him:



Here is the bull with lighter highlights in a progression up to the point where his shape becomes harder to recognize. The value pattern of the bull has been adulterated by using too high of value contrasts within that bull's shape.

The first black and white is of the photo above:



Now watch in the next 3 how his outside shape is adulterated by lighter contrasts. This one is a bit lighter than the original photo



This one is lighter than the one above.



This one is even lighter and the outside shape is adulterated.


Now see how near-values will keep his total outside shape with color.



Here is the black and white of the red and green bull above:



In the black and white directly above this sentence....you see the shape of the bull. Yet, the green and red (near values) divide the bull into two parts....it 'stops the eye' just as high contrast of values do.
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:51 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Thank you Larry and Celeste for your excellent replies. I cannot tell you how helpful your images have been too. I'm definately marking these for future reference!

~Cassie~
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:53 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?

I love Gruppe almost as much as I love Wyeth.

Notice the red and green in his boats are near value in order to not adulterate the shape.

A last example and then I leave it up to whomever to decide for themselves what tools that they use where:

This sun 'pops' from this sky. However, it is almost identical in value.

Here it is in color:


Here it is in black and white:




I happen to love great contrasts, by the way. Wyeth being one of my most favorite artists of all time. Rembrandt as well.

I'm not saying to not use high contrasts...as it probably is the MOST effective of eye grabbers. However, the near value temperature contrasts are not far behind in grabbing the eye as well. It's just another tool for those who take heed.
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Old 01-21-2007, 11:36 AM
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Re: Why is value so important?



Now, here are the lovely VALUE contrasts in black and white.



Next:

Below are the same painting as above......but this more colorful one is in more near-values.

I think that this is a very effective abstract even though it has fewer values in it.....but that is my opinon only.



This is the near value painting with the green sky.... and pink, purple, and orange colors...below....shown in black & white.




Isn't it amazing that this painting holds together more by it's shapes than it's values, perhaps? Or, maybe it just does this for me. I could be wrong though. All of this is just my own opinion....not trying to change the way people have been taught or teach, of course. It's just another tool to use if you wish.

Last edited by Celeste McCall : 01-21-2007 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 01-22-2007, 12:01 PM
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Re: Why is value so important?

Here are just a few of my favorite paintings from just a few of my favorite artists that demonstrate why different approaches to value are just as viable. Most of these also demonstrate breaking a number of other compositional "rules", too, but they were chosen because of their unusual approach to value. There are better examples maybe for breaking the other compositional "rules".

While I can see some people not liking these works, as I said, they're some of my favorites, and for me, no one is going to come up with better paintings than these, although some other paintings might be just as good in my view (including of course other paintings by these artists). So saying that you need to take a particular approach to value to produce a good painting just isn't true, or those folks would say that these are not good paintings. That you can do different things compositionally is not a new, revolutionary idea. These well demonstrate why color is just as important compositionally as other elements.

I chose the work of famous artists just to emphasize that it's not just me as a lone loon who likes this stuff. As I mentioned above, I do like a lot of other kind of art, too--including works by a number of artists like Salvador Dali, Otto Dix, Paul Cadmus, Donald Roller Wilson, Mark Ryden, etc. who often take a more traditional approach to value and such, but I don't like them any better than the artists or artworks below, even if I like them as well:

Note that there is some tonal gradation over the whole picture from left to right or right to left in some of these that isn't present in the actual painting--it stems from me scanning these from books I have and not wanting to mess up the book by breaking the spine, etc.

Marc Chagall, Bonjour Paris:



In black & white:



Joan Miro, Figures and Mountains:



In black and white:



Pablo Picasso, Seated Old Man:



In black and white:



Paul Klee, Small Portrait of a Girl in Yellow:



In black and white:


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