More ReviewsApril 24, 2023
Our recent Large Advanced Painting challenge was an opportunity to test our skills and see how they hold up on a larger painting.
When you scale up from smaller works to a painting that is 3 to 4 times larger than your normal work we get the opportunity to see which of the basic fundamentals we most need to focus on.
It could be:
- Drawing & Mapping in the Big Shapes
- Composition & Design
- Use of Values
- Colour and Colour Mixing
- Mark Making
We had some fantastic results from those who took place so well done everyone.
In this article I want to focus on one of the most important for landscape painting.
Well actually all of the fundamentals are important 🙂
However in Landscape painting its VALUES that set up a feeling depth, atmosphere, form and dimension in our painting.
These are the things that seperate the paintings of a professional from the hobby artist.
Through years of study and application of VALUES we can create the illusion of a three dimensional painting on a two dimensional surface. All painting is an illusion in this regard so master artists are better at creating the illusion.
With landscape painting we want to use the principles of Aerial Perspective to enhance the illusion. VALUES are one of the key components of Aerial Perspective.
Firstly what are VALUES?
Values is a term that refers to the darkness or lightness of a colour. Every colour you mix has a relative value. Typically in painting we start with the use of a 5 Values Scale and then progress to a 10 Values Scale.
Master artists have mastered the use of a 10 values scale which has greater subtlty.
A good place to start is with the 5 Values scale. There are 5 steps from Dark to Light.
We cover this in great detail in our comprehensive Values Cours in the Learn To Paint Academy so I won’t go through all of the details here.
The biggest single trap with Values though is that we can learn it so we have an understanding of values at an intellectual level … but our application and demonstration of our knowledge on the canvas may be lacking.
It was a bit like when I wanted to learn to play golf many years ago. I read all the books, watched endless DVD’s and could chat about golf until the cows came home. BUT … the first day I went out to actually play golf I realised that all of the intellectual knowledge would account for very little as the reality of feeling the club in my hands, a stiff breaze in my face, and standing in front of the club house with a bunch of impatient members waiting for me to hurry up and get on with it.
There is always a gap between knowledge and its application.
Values are tricky though to see if you have this gap.
When you look at a greyscale version of the values scale it is easy to see the steps from dark down to light, right?
But as soon as you start painting in colour we easily lose sight of the underlying values. Remember that colour has a value and its our use of the value of colour that either makes a painting work or flop.
So how do you know if your application of values is on track or off track?
It’s easy really.
All you need to do is take a photo of your latest work and convert it to greyscale.
If you took part in the latest challenge then use that to see where you are at with your application of values. If not then take your latest landscape or seascape painting.
Here is my demonstration painting:
What you want to see is a feeling of depth in your painting.
Your greyscale version wants to feel like you can walk right into the scene.
In fact you know when you are getting your values right in landscape painting as people will make that very comment to you.
So how about your greyscale? Can you see depth in the painting? Does it feel like you could walk right into it?
If not dont despair. It just means there is a gap between your knowledge and the application of the knowledge.
In this case I would go back and do a refreher on the knowledge. In other words go back through the Values course and actually do the values exercises in the course 🙂
You can get better with your application of values in your painting.
It’s just a learning process which starts with knowledge and moves to consistent practice. Push lots of paint around and develop the skills to assess your own work, and then take the learnings into the next painting.
This brings me to a key point!
In the Moore Method of Painting (the primary method we teach in the Learn To Paint Academy) our second major step in the development of a painting is the block in.
We start with our darkest darks and block those in first. And progressively work back to the lightest tones.
Our darkest darks are usually verticals like trees, cows, buildings etc.
According to “Carlsons Guide to Landscape Painting” there are four plains of light.
1/ Verticals – Usually darkest Tones
2/ Slanted Plains – like sides of mountains
3/ Flat Plains – fields of grass
4/ Sky – source of all light
When I started out painting I had zero clues about this and would paint my skies way to dark not realising the sky mass should be the lightest as it is generally the source of all light in a landscape.
So in the Moore Method our block in is critical because it helps us establish our values pattern.
Dark to Light in the verticals and slants.
Lighter in the flat plains.
And still lighter again in the sky.
By the end of the block in stage we should see a similar underlying values pattern to our finished painting just with less details and information.
Put another way, when you complete your block in you should see depth starting to develop.
Now there are other factors that enhance the feeling of depth and atmosphere such as colour temperature, saturation, edges, size and placement of shapes etc. But none of these are as important as the block in of the correct values.
Generally speaking we want our darkest darks in the foreground and progressively working back to our lightest tones in the distance.
When you train your eye to see as an artist you will start to see the world like this.
You will see trees in the foreground and begin to notice how much darker they are than the trees way of in the distance. The same with mountains.
If you get the block in right with a solid values pattern established then you set yourself up for success with the painting.
If you are off track at this point then no amount of details and fiddling at the end will save it.
Here is a challenge for you after you have analysed the values in your most recent painting.
Do ten small landscape paintings.
Stop at the end of the block in stage and take a photo. Turn the photo into a grey scale and analyse it to see if there is a solid values structure or not. If not adjust it before going on to colour.
By the time you have done ten paintings where you pause and analyse your values at the block in stage you will start to see great improvements in the practical application of values in your painting.
Most importantly though enjoy the process and have fun 🙂
When your paintings start to pop because you have the values right it starts to become even more exciting.
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