The last 8 weeks in class our ongoing discussion has been about Value; the dark, the light, and how to understand value and communicate value in your work. In the painting to the right, black acrylic and only the white of the canvas were used to communicate the subject. Color is not needed to explain the metal can, the white cup or the dark red apple. Relative values explain the forms but also reveal to the viewer what is happening with the light on those forms. Value, more than color is key to a successful painting.
We are talking about VALUE but what that really means is: Explaining the LIGHT!
These sketches of a simple set-up, all explain the light - in 4 different ways. We used only 2 values for each item: light & dark. In sketch #1, top left, the light parts of each object are under painted with acrylic orange and the dark values are under painted with acrylic black.
To the right in sketch #2, the entire space was under painted in acrylic black and the shapes are defined in only light and dark. This version has the most drama and a very graphic look.
Sketch #3 has a traditional, oil/thinner, wash under painting, warm under the light areas and cool in the darks areas. The Cerulean blue in the foreground is too intense but does communicate light on a dark background - which will almost always be darker than the dark areas of a white object, such as the cup.
Sketch #4 is painted in the "direct" method; no under painting. All 4 sketches break up the values in a way that clearly explains what the objects are and how they are effected by the light.
I tend to be somewhat tyrannical about using white paint in class so two weeks of set ups with white items- almost unheard of.
White paint cools all your colors, as well as lowers their intensity. Most beginners get very nervous about color that is too intense or values that are too strong. I think it is the "too, too" thing. Take away the white and one is forced to moderate values from the palette of colors. Which, by the way, encourages better color mixing.
The challenge in "tea set" above, was to make them look white while working on a violet, wash under painting. We started with a white canvas, which is my least favorite way to work. I much prefer a canvas with several old paintings underneath; that way I don't have to work as hard to get depth in my values.