Painting Basics: Value Pattern Studies, choices in composition

Painting realistically is not just about painting what you see. As we paint, there are choices to make along the way. We can play with the composition to make the painting visually more interesting.

Today, I have painted three quick studies to show how a simple choice can make a dramatic change to the look of a painting. These studies are value studies. In these studies, I am looking at how the basic value pattern changes my composition. I reduced my composition down to three values, two that are fairly close to each other on the value chart and one that is not.  

Value pattern quick studies


I rotated the values around in each composition to decide which one I like best.  Which one we choose depends on our intentions or the goal we set out to achieve, all the above choices have reasons to select as our value pattern. The exercise of doing a quick value study allows us to decide what we are going to do before we begin painting. The quick study gives us the chance to make decision before we commit to the larger project.

Value Chart: relative perception of value.

Looking at the chart above  we can see how values are relative in their nature. Two values next to each other behave differently than two other values next to each other. Notice that the value scale is the same scale in each line on the chart, yet as we move down the chart the background value darkens. How we perceive an individual value will change as we move down the chart because of the visual relationship that value has with each background value.

Different choices using three values.

Above is a chart doing the same thing the quick studies did. The samples in the chart move three values around to the different fields in the image. Notice how the simple decision of changing the value pattern changes the look and feel of the image. Imagine the possibilities when you substitute different values in for the ones above. Your choice becoming seemingly endless.

Knowing about value pattern gives us a tool to use in directing the eye of the viewer. In the above quick studies, the subject and composition are simple, a portrait centered in the composition. I might not need to do too many studies. As the complexity of the scene and composition grows these studies become more helpful in resolving any questions about what to do before we start painting.