Class Notes: Value and the Grayscale - why?

2016 Painting classes started last week and there is something about the newness of January that seems to add fresh inspiration to my outlook.  Ironically, it would seem like we are tackling an old subject in Class but when it comes to painting there is always MORE to be learned.
In my classes we have studied VALUE in the 2-value NOTAN, the 3 and 4 value sketch, laying in value in an under painting, we have addressed color as value, value in neutrals, values on a black ground, or white ground,  values in the landscape, in still life, in direct light like sunshine and in shade. Are we bored yet - or just tired?
This is a subject that we address at almost EVERY class meeting; it is always with us- ho hum.
There IS more to be learned,
but, is there a new way to look at it?  Stay with me. . . .

This week we did something we have never done in my class - we made grayscales;  mine is at the top.   Not earthshaking you say?  Too true.
But as one of my students revealed - she made a grayscale in another class but never really did anything with it.  Hmm. . . . .  So WHAT is it for - or how can I make it "work" for me?
I have discounted the grayscale as an artist's “toy”, something a teacher would tell you to buy but you'd just carry it around.  Maybe hoping it will help with - something.
I have one - never used it.
In high school, I also used to imagine that if I slept with my German book under my pillow some learning would leak into my brain. 
yeah. . . . .

I do have to say, in my own work, I have had trouble using certain colors with success and I know the problem is a VALUE problem - not strictly a color problem - so, I am going back to the grayscale to examine closely the colors I have struggled with.
Color in VALUE is one of the most difficult hurdles facing painters, and especially troubling for students. I try to hit it in class from every possible direction.
The Grayscale is not a cure all; only a tool, but in the weeks to come we will be learning to use it to address those "gray" areas of color and value in our work. In the end, if we find the grayscale worthless - well, we can throw it out and not feel guilty.
Somehow, I doubt we will do that. Stay tuned.

Class Notes: Making a Grayscale

The GRAYSCALE contains only shades of gray - no color.
Not magic, it is only a tool, but a good one to use to judge, and compare every paint mix we make, to see where it fits in the gray range.
You can do a strong 3 value sketch but not have a clue about what colors to plug into those gray shades. That is where the grayscale will help.
Let's start by making one.

I drew 7 boxes for a 7 value scale because it is pretty simple and also has a MID-point. I placed white paint in box #1 and black in box #7.
The first time, I mixed, what I perceived to be a "centrist" or middle gray for the #4 box and mixed values up and down.
The second time, I started with white and added a little black to the mix as I worked up the scale to all black.
This is something that you get better at the more that you do it; so don't stop at just one.
Do several, set them aside and judge them later as to which seem to get the best gradation of even values up the scale.

Next we will look at just WHERE our colors fit in this scale.
A hah! More fun to come.