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  "We see nothing truly until we understand it"~ John Constable

Value
     
 


Intensity -
the brightness or dullness of color.


intensity


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The World of Color

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“He who wishes to become a master of color must see, feel, and experience each individual color in its endless combinations with all other colors.” Johannes Itten, 1888-1967

Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color, all color has value, some are lighter than others. Value is measured on a scale of one to ten. One being the darker at black and ten being the lighter at white.

Value is one of the key properties of a color and artists manage and control value in order to create form and dimension within an object.

value

Since Value is a property of color and Value is a measure of lightness or darkness of a color, think about the hue - Red. If we described a dark value red, we could describe it as a deep wine color. If we described a light value of red, some of us may refer to it as a soft pink color. As artists, and teachers, it is important for us to use the correct terminology to describe color. Value is one of the ways we describe how light or dark a color appears to us. If we all use the same language to discuss and describe color we will understand each other more easily.

value Red values

Value versus Intensity

Here we have two examples, the one on the left shows the values of the color, while the one on the right shows the actual color hue in all its ranges of intensity. These are properties of color, yet each very different from each other.

The Discovery and use of value...

Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci, ' Mona Lisa'

During the Renaissance period, the Italian artists developed and perfected the technique that allowed them to create real form. A more naive or simpler version of this concept was first applied by the early Romans and was also seen in medieval times as it showed up in some of the 'Illuminated manuscripts'. The Italians however called their more advanced technique 'Chiaroscuro'. This word (chiaro) means light and (oscuro) means to dark. So its meaning of light to dark explains how the Italian artists saw the transition of light into dark.

Artists such as Leonard Da Vinci and Rembrandt used the technique of 'Chiaroscuro'often. In fact some artists today refer to this dramatic play of light to dark as 'Rembrandt lighting'. During the Baroque Period Chiaroscuro was widely used as a recognized stylistic effect, where the light source was more direct and dramatic, and the resulting strong shadow added to the drama of the composition.

Value scale

Ten Values make up the Value scale or the 'gray scale' - (Value 10 = White, Value 1= Black)

Rembrandt Rembrandt values

All color has value. Can you see the amount of light in each value within the colors used in this self portrait painted by the Old Dutch Master Rembrandt? We are able see or 'read' values easier in black and white, so when learning about values it's easier to learn about them with black and white and with the help of the 'gray scale'.

Value Scale
Puter Black & White

Compare the black and white image on the right to the colored image on the left. Try to visually match the values between the two. One of the most noticeable comparisons is the value of the table top near the container. Does your eye read this as being lighter than it really is? Don't get this confused with intensity (brightness of a color). This confirms that a bright color can also be darker in value.

Yellow Orange Gray Scale

It is important for an artist to create the illusion of three dimensional form. This is how the artist imitates the effects of light. When light moves across an object, it reveals the surface contours of the object and this is what creates the illusion of true dimension, or roundness and depth. It is also referred to as Volume.

A simple way to understand value - The basement analogy...

You are standing in a dark window-less basement. There is no light. It is black. There are ten steps leading up to the next floor. Each of these stairs represents one value. Begining with the first step which is a value 1 ( black) and ending at the top step which is a value 10 (white).

As we climb each of the stairs, one step at a time, there appears more and more light. Each step brings us closer to the top where there is full light. We begin with black (no light) and as more light is added the color gets lighter until it is fully saturated with light.

Value Scale

No light = Value 1 Black ................. Full Light = Value 10 White

Visit the link below to purchase this DVD now...

 

Sue Pruett, MDA has created an easy and simple to follow theory based lesson explaining: Values, forms, blending, and background relationships. The lesson includes seven pages of written theory along with instructions to paint the forms as shown in the graphic below. This is an excellent lesson for the student or teacher who wishes to understand the basic forms and what is involved in painting them.

Creation of the value scale - What is the Value Scale and who developed it?


Value is a measure of the graduation of color from light to dark.  Professor Albert Henry Munsell 1858–1918 was an American painter and a teacher of art. He was also the inventor of the Mussell color system. As a painter, he was known for his seascapes and portraits.

Munsell developed a system for numerically describing colors using a scale he named the Value Scale. The artist wrote two books on this subject, one of the books was called A Color Notation and was written in 1905 and also Atlas of the Munsell Color System in 1915. He created a system to measure color that is still used universally.
To help the artist see value Munsell assigned a number to ten incriments of gray from dark to light and called it the Value Scale.  Munsell divided his scale is divided into 10 equal measurements with a 10% difference between each of the values on the scale.  The color gray is used to make this scale because it has no hue and therefore it is easier to judge the value of any color next to and against this neutral gray scale.

The measurement of value is based on each artist's own perception and because of this each of us may see value a little differently.  Acrylic paint will dry 10 -15% darker so if you are trying to determine a wet value against a dried value, the artist must take the 10 -15% shift into consideration. You can also let the wet paint dry and compare it at that point.

Value Scale

Here is an example of a ten increment value scale

What is a shape?
There are four basic shapes that all objects evolve from which are: rectangle, triangle, square, and circle.  Some objects are a combination of two or more shapes.  Once you understand how to identify these four shapes you can paint anything if you first paint the shape and then add the characteristics of the subject.

What is form?
Form is the word used to describe the dimensional appearance of a particular shape.  Form is achieved through the proper placement of values to create mass. Drawing a shape in pencil will look flat until values are added to the shape then the form of that shape will become dimensional. The more values an object exhibits the more dimensional it will appear. Three values in one object is the minimum required to give it form, five to seven values will give the object more realistic dimension.  The more values achieved, through proper placement and blending, the more form or dimension the shape will have.

Shape
Form
Circle
We must understand that a circle is not actually a geometric form but rather an outline that has no substance or mass. This basic shape which now has value is known as a sphere and has substance or mass, it can be picked up and handled. It has form.  

 

In order to depict form in our paintings we must clearly understand what 'shading' really represents.  'Shading' represents the darker values found on the object and also how the object’s color is being affected by light and shadows.  The placement of values within a shapes’ outline or contour is what determines the form and gives it mass and structure.  An excellent example is a sphere commonly referred to as a ball.  We turn a circle (the outline) into a sphere or ball with shading and highlighting.  See the diagram above. To render a perfectly round full sphere requires both knowledge and skill.  To begin we must understand and be able to identify the elements of shading.  With the correct placement of these elements we can achieve the desired form.

Uderstanding form and how to apply it to the shapes of objects...

Form – gaining an understanding of form is essential for giving your paintings a three-dimensional quality. Learn to make your paintings appear three-dimensional.

Sphere
cube
Cone
Cylinder

 

Value Scale


As we discuss form we begin with the premise that all things are made up of basic geometric shapes including variations and combinations of them.  These basic 'shapes' are known as a rectangle, triangle, circle and square and they have no substance or mass; they can not be picked up and handled. However 'forms' have mass, they take up space, have volume and and can be picked up and handled. See the diagram above.

We must understand that a circle is not actually a geometric shape but rather an outline or contour that has no substance.  Squares, rectangles, and triangles are all outlines or contours as is any sort of curve.  When we speak of the contour we are referring to the outlining shape of an object. A circle can be turned into a sphere or into a disc, like a dinner plate.  If we turn that circle into a plate we must be able to recognize and 'see' that it is actually a slice through a cylinder

Look for the different combinations of shapes within these items below. Can you see the cones, cylinder, and spherical forms?
Dark Values
Light Values

 

The key point is that it is the application of shading that creates substance or mass and how we apply that shading will determine which of the two (shape or form) the circle will be.  The artist must be able to recognize these shapes and variations of them in everything about us. What form does a flower stem have? What form is the trunk of a tree? What form is your arm? If you said cylinder you would be correct.

As the rounded part of the object curves away from the light source into the shadow side, these are the darkest values. The darkest area of an object is sometimes referred to as the shadow side


Lighter values of the object: The Highlight area is where the object receives full light.  It is where the light is the strongest on the object and it is therefore the area of lightest value.  This is an area – not just a dot of the lightest value.  A dot in a lighter value on top of the highlight area would indicate light being reflected. 
It is of course mandatory that placement of reflected light, shadows, and highlight areas be correct.  After that it is an even and gradual value change from the shadow edge to the middle value area and then continuing from that middle value to the highlight area that  will produce the fullness of form we desire in our still life paintings.   

What is meant by the term Grisaille...

The word grisaille most often refers to the style of painting that uses a monochrome grey scale underpainting to establish the tonal forms and harmony of objects within a composition. Monochrome means of one hue. Mono (one) Chrome (color). Monochrome in grisaille means values of one hue, in this case Black and White or shades of grey. Any color can be used to paint an underpainting, however the grisaille underpainting uses the grey scale. After the painting is rendered in grisaille, thin transparent glazes of color are applied over the grisaille to complete the painting. The grisaille helps to retain the luminosity of the color and creates greater depth. The French made grisaille painting popular and in the 1700's it reached the peak of its popularity with artists and collectors alike. Many of the Old Masters used layering techniques to establish depth.

Value Scale

Grisaille is an excellent method used to learn and teach value control. The artist learns to create a composition using light, middle and dark values. Without the initial distraction of color the artist is able to concentrate on actual form or mass. A value study or grisaille underpainting is used to establish the dimensional relationships between elements as they sit within the context of a composition.

Paintings shown in grey scales - no color applied
An Artist's Point of View, Neadeen Masters, CDA

Flemish Floral, Susan Abdella, MDA, Traditions Ed. Program - Module D

Anna Ancher, Portrait of Michael Ancher (Grisaille)

1920, 5 × 257/25 cm, Skagen, Helga Anchers Fond, Denmark

 

The Grisaille underpainting is often used to...

  • Create Depth - The use of grisaille underpainting is about establishing form (mass) and depth within a composition. The background is controlled at a specific value. In order to advance elements off the background, values that are either lighter or darker (relative to the value of the controlled background) are necessary to build towards the central focal area. The grisaille establishes value relationships and contrasts between elements as they advance from and receed toward the background - the end result is overall depth.  
  • Troubleshoot - The grisaille layer was also used as a way for the artist to workout any problems with details prior to the final rendition. The Old Masters often worked in grisaille, reserving the more expensive pigments for colored glazing techniques at a later stage in the painting.
  • Establish Temperature - The grisaille layer can also be used to establish temperature contrast between cool and warm.
  • Create Harmony - The grisaille underpainting will also establish overall harmony throughout the painting. Establishing a common color tone and build harmonic relationships between elements in the composition.

Understanding the nuances of light and value...

Learning to see how light hits an object and what some of the effects are can change the way we think about the form of an object.
There is quite a distinct difference between a flat two dimensional circle that has only one value and a sphere that exhibits form, showing several values to create the 'roundness' of the object. But light affects many things, and learning to see the unique way the values are described makes for a study of realism.

Circle Sphere
Value Scale


Look for the darker range of values in shadows

value in shadows

 

Light near the shadows...
Look at the strawberry in the photograph below, can you see the light on the underside of the berry? Where you might expect to see a shadow, instead there is another kind of light effect. This is called 'reflected' light. Note that the light source that falls on this strawberry is coming from above. Where is the brightest highlight?

Reflected light


Value and Reflected light is usually found along the outer edge of an object or like in the image above, on the underside where the light is bouncing up from the white tabletop.  It is light bouncing off the surrounding surfaces that causes the reflected light.  It can also tell the viewer that there is a back edge to a particular object.  It is most noticeable in the shadow areas where it separates the cast shadow below it from the shadow edge of the object.  Without reflected light these areas might appear to be flat and run together.

The Highlight area is where the object receives full light.  It is where the light is the strongest on the object and it is therefore the area of lightest value.  This is an area – not just a dot of the lightest value.  A dot in a lighter value on top of the highlight area would indicate light being reflected back off the object. 
It is of course mandatory that placement of reflected light, shadows, and highlight areas be correct.  After that it is an even and gradual value change or transition from the shadow edge to the middle value area and then continuing from the middle value to the highlight area that  will produce the fullness of form we desire in our still life paintings.   

See the effects that light has on color...

Playing with RGB

If you are interested in seeing the effects of light on color, here is a great little tool to play with. This might help you visualize the true effects of light at different times of the day. Think about a the color of light at sunset, noon, daybreak and late at night. How does light affect everything around us and how does it change the way we look at everything.

White Light is made up of Red, Green and Blue, RGB. These three colors when mixed, produce white light. If we alter the amount of any of these three, we see everything differently. Think about the effects of light from a fireplace versus the color of the light in moon light. The reason light looks different at both those times, is that the balance between RGB has been altered or changed.

Click on the link below and have a little fun playing with the effects of Additive mixing. This is very different from Subtractive mixing which is what we artists do when we mix paint on the palette.

The Color Spectrum

Light and RGB...Light is made up of many colors that produce the spectrum of color. However, we see light as white. If we use a prism, we can separate the different light rays like a rainbow. It is interesting to see what happens when we add all three RGB to get white light and then remove each one to read the effects. Remove all three at the same time and we have no light, which means no color.

Chiaroscuro - what does this mean?

The Italians called this technique 'Chiaroscuro'. This word (chiaro) means light and (oscuro) means to dark. So its meaning of light to dark explains how the Italian artists saw the transition of light into dark. Artists such as Leonard Da Vinci and Rembrandt used the technique of 'Chiaroscuro' often. In fact some artists today refer to this dramatic play of light to dark as 'Rembrandt lighting'. During the Baroque Period Chiaroscuro was widely used as a recognized stylistic effect, where the light source was more direct and dramatic, and the resulting strong shadow added to the drama of the composition.

The technique of 'Chiaroscuro' finds its roots in the making of the historical Illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Scribes worked on vellum (thin paper like surface made from calf skin) that was dyed a dark color. Form or mass was eluded to by the use of lighter gouache hue (watercolor) against the darker vellum surface.

The more general use of the term Chiaroscuro refers to the modeling of form, where artists use contrast of light and dark to illustrate mass, volume or three dimension. However, when artists specifically use the 'Chiaroscuro' technique this refers to the use of dramatic contrast of light and dark and is specifically used to create the theatrical mood of the painting. Shown in the painting below by Gerard van Honthorst who often applied the effects of Chiaroscuro to enhance the theatrical mood of his compositions.

Gerard van Honthorst, 1622, Holland, Baroque

Many famous Dutch Masters, for example Jan Davidsz de Heem relied on the use of the strong contrasting play of light to create great interest in their floral paintings. See the example featured below.

Jan Davidsz de Heem was considered a master of floral compositions.There is a sense of earthly abundance featured in his art. His depictions of flowers often showed the life cycle of the flower from bud to fully open. One of the skills that many Dutch artists were known for is their use of light. The viewer can often follow the path of light to reveal the realistic structure of the most important objects.

Jan Davidsz de Heem: Blumenvase, 1645, 69,6 × 56,5, Washington, D.C. National Gallery of Art, Holland
Rembrandt van Rijn was a master of 'Chiaroscuro'. He injected great drama and depth through the use of strong contrast and the play of light. Some art historians describe this play of light against dark as theatrical. Many of Rembrandt's backgrounds appear dark, as objects move and transition towards the light source, they reveal color and detail grabbing the attention of the viewer and adding to the idea of great theater.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Portrait of Jan Six, 1654, Amsterdam, Holland

Placing values to create certain contours...

It is important to understand how the placement of values (side by side) on an object's surface can affect the perceived contour of the object. Observe each of the four images below. You can observe that the position of the values and the relative change from light to dark will create the visual 'surface contour'. The artist uses this placement of values, or transition from light to dark to create all kinds of surface textures and contours.

  • If the artist wants something to bulge forward, such as on a cylinder form, like a leaf or a flower petal, they would create a soft gradation between the values, see example #1.
  • If they wished to create a concave surface it depends on how subtle the gradation or change in values are, see example #2.
  • To create a harder edge, such as on the 'crisp' fold of fabric, or on a tablecloth, the change in value is less subtle, see example #3.
copper1 Copper3

#1. Soft gradation of values shows the 'convex' contour of the object.

(bulging outwards)

#2. Placement of two highlight areas shows 'concave' contour of the surface.

(sinking in)

Copper4 Copper 2

#3. Increased contrast or sudden change between light and dark values shows a harder edge on the contour of the object.

(create a sharp edge)

#4. More 'gradual' gradation between values shows a softer edge, compared to the image #3.

(create a soft roll)

Mass Tone - Establishing three dimension...

Artists paint in layers to create depth and three dimensional form. In order to do so, they can first establish overall values or mass tones on objects. This can also be used to establish the objects position within the planes of the painting.

  • Three dimension - Lets think about this fundamental concept of painting...The blank canvas is a flat two dimensional surface. Yes its FLAT. FLAT. FLAT. Our job as an artist is to create the illusion of three dimension and depth. We want the viewer to say, "Wow...I could reach in and touch the flowers because they look so real. They look so three dimensional, or ROUND!!'. How does the artist do this? How do they create the illusion of three dimension? Answer - they use values or light and dark colors. Artists use contrasts of light and dark values to make the viewer believe that light has fallen on objects that have mass, or take up real space. The parts of the objects that stick out father into the path of light, 'catch' more light. Artists also use darks to establish shadows on areas of objects that don't receive a lot of light.  So the trick is always to fool the viewer into believing that even though we painted objects on a FLAT surface, we made them look like they have mass... in other words they are three dimensional and have real structure. They look like they could be handled.
The artist needs to establish the illusion of distance or relative closeness between objects and the painting's background. We refer to this as creating depth within the painting. In this case the lightest object is the container in the foreground. The contrast between it and the background, relative to everything else, establishes the distance. If we blur our eyes, and look at objects, all details are removed. What we see is the overall light and shadow areas of the object where no details and no real structure is apparent. This technique can help determine the overall volume of the objects and their position within the composition. This is referred to as finding the mass tone of the objects .
  • Depth - Now that we know that all objects need to show values which create their individual form or mass, we also need to understand that within the overall composition some objects will receive more or less light than others based on their position. This of course depends on the direction of the light source and how bright the light is, how far the objects are from the light, etc. The artist needs to establish the illusion of distance or closeness between the objects and the background. We refer to this as depth within the painting. The objects must show a relationship between themselves and the background. The background is the first 'control' that is put in place to begin to build the painting's overall depth.
  • Depth & the value scale - We know that the value scale has ten values - one is black and ten is white. In any painting, the background value will often determine the starting point for developing depth. It is safe to say that in order to get objects to advance off the background the artist will either make them lighter or darker relative to the background value...in order to push back towards the background will have to be closer to the background's value. Thus begins the push and pull of adjusting values or mass tones of the objects. Relative to the background and each object within the composition.
  • Value scale & mass tones - Establishing mass tones is the easiest and quickest method to assign the position of an object relative to the background and the main focal area. If we blur our eyes, and look at an object, most detail is removed. What we see is the overall light and shadow areas of the object where hardly any details or structure is revealed. If we only want to establish an object's overall or general value based on its position within the composition, finding mass tones help establish the position of each object or element RELATIVE to the background and its importance in a painting.
Establishing mass tones is the easiest and quickest method to assign the position of an object relative to the background and the main focal area. Looking at objects through blurred eyes, helps to pick out these overall mass values. As more values are applied to develop each object, a more refined form is established. The objects structures are revealed, in other words they come into greater focus and the artist can determine where the main focal area will be placed... relative to the background.
  • Mass tones & grisaille - Depth within a painting refers to the imaginary distance we create between elements in the frontal plane and those in the background or rear plane of a painting.  Its really about adjusting values or pushing and pulling objects either forward or back. With a grisaille or grey scale painting, some elements can be developed more than others. Values are used to pull and bring items forward and values are used on other elements or portions of elements which helps to push them backwards, always relative to the background. When grisaille is used, the artist will adjust the values of the items in the background to take them closer to the background value.  Always tweaking and adjusting for greater depth and separation.

Mixing a chromatic value scale...

Mixing a chromatic value scale, you can use any hue to do this. in the example below, we have used violet as the hue.

Violet

The Hue 'Violet' can be a difficult color to manage

Question:  How do you make a value scale of 5 values of Violet choosing from the 26 Traditions pigment colors listed on the Pigment Wheel? Black and White can only be used in tiny increments. I love mixing color and I prefer to have value scales of colors to choose from versus brush mixing all my values.  

Once the values are mixed, brush mix between values to brighten or dull a color as needed as the painting progresses. Values scales are a check and balance for many of the decisions especially when planning an important painting because as the objects get darker they also get less intense and cooler, and as the object get lighter it gets warmer (Mr. Sunshine) and possibly more intense than the medium value.  

To help make a decision of where to start, choose the color you want an object to be, then mix a medium value which is usually the overall value of an object (of course depending on it’s placement in a painting).  Then split the medium value into three separate piles, one for the medium value, the other two to start the light and dark values, then make the light value, split that into two and make the highlight value, same steps for the dark and very dark values.  Mix five values of each object, therefore, if one has five objects in a painting, you might have 25 values to brush mix. The choices grow even further and keep the harmony flowing through out the design.

Answer:  Remember this is just one of the many possibilities to make a violet chromatic value scale.  Try to keep the mixture simple only using six colors.

Medium Value = Dioxazine Purple + Yellow Oxide (complement to tone and will raise the value) 2:1 + just a touch of Titanium White to make approximately a value #5.

Light Value = Medium Value + Napthol Red (warmer in relationship to Violet) 2-1 + tch Titanium White (to make lighter)

Highlight Value = Light Value + Napthol Red 2-1 + tch Titanium White (to make lighter in value),

Dark Value = Medium Value + Ultramarine Blue 2-1 (to make cooler in temp) + dot of Carbon Black (to mark darker which also tones).

Very Dark Value = Dark Value + Ultramarine Blue 2-1 + dot of Carbon Black (to make darker in value, and also tones).

Reading the value of values...on a scale of one to ten...

Still Life

Note the darkest values nearer the contact point of the objects

Value equals form, yes but take note of the basic forms and how the roundness of each element comes to life as light moves into darker shadow across each of the forms featured above. Can you read the values based on the scale of one through ten? see the value scale example featured below.

Note the way the cast shadows fall across the table top and fall against the wall? Do the values of these shadows change and add to the overall perception of depth within the composition - Most definitely yes.

IMPORTANT: Note the darkest values nearer the contact point of the objects (where the containers touch the table) will read closer to value one (black) where there is no light and the lightest values fall closest to the highlight (lightest area on the object) where the bulging portion of the object catches the most light) is almost a value ten (white).

Value Scale

Values range on a scale of 1-10 (Black = 1, White = 10)

All color has value

Learning about value is the key to understanding and describing depth and dimension in your painting...