Focused practice: 3-value plans

This week I continued my focused practice on values with 3-value plans as compositional studies. I began each study by making thumbnails from reference photos with different amounts of light, mid, and dark values. I used the approach Carol Marine talks about in her book Daily Painting by thinking about them in terms of dominant, secondary, and smidge amounts. And instead of just making one value plan for each subject, I took what I learned in Patti Mollica’s values techniques class and did 3 plans each.

value plans with three values in acrylic paint
From each of the thumbnail sets below (except for the last one), I chose the value plan that interested me the most and painted it with white, grey, and black acrylic paint. This step was really helpful for helping me see what would be an interesting image to take to an actual painting.
3-value thumbnails of different subjects for focused practice
Each day I chose a photo reference and made 3 thumbnail studies for it. The notes I jotted down helped me keep the amounts of each value different and forced me to look at the subject in different ways.

This process felt quite a bit different to me from last week’s 2-value notan studies. With those, the darks were based on what I saw in shadow, and the lights were those areas that weren’t in shadow. For this week’s studies I was looking more for how to group the dark areas, mid areas, and light areas into larger shapes that related to each other.

These exercises were incredibly helpful for getting me to explore and see past my initial reaction to an image. They also helped me feel a clearer direction in what subjects are interesting to me and that I’d like to concentrate on. The still life images didn’t really make me feel as enthusiastic about the idea of painting them as the landscapes. It was particularly surprised that the close-up of the flowers didn’t engage me. I love macro photography of plants, but in this exercise it seemed so boring.

I came to the conclusion that (right now, anyway) I’m more interested in painting something with depth — whether that’s the literal depth of space as in a landscape, or the figurative depth that I feel with animals.

Next week the subject will be 4-value black, white, and grey paintings from life using some wood blocks of varying shapes and colors. I’m very curious to see what I learn from the experience! One thing I’ll need to watch is not getting caught up in obsessing over the drawings and to stay focused on values.

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