Focused practice: 4-value block paintings

For this week’s focused practice exercises, I stepped up the number of values I’m using from 3 last week, and 2 the week before. Each day, I set up a simple still life using the wood blocks that my husband cut for me, which I had painted different colors. Once the still life was set up, I did a thumbnail sketch to get familiar with the subject and map out which of the 4 values I wanted to put where.

Daily Art 08-06-2018 - 08-10-2018 4-value still life painting exercise
Four values (full light, half-light, half-dark, and full dark) in acrylic, painted from a still life of colored blocks lit by a side light.

This exercise was largely inspired by the Value & Color lesson from Peggi Kroll Roberts as well as the color block kits she used to sell. I also took direction from the book Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice by Mitchell Albala. In it, he talks about the four major plane divisions in landscapes that translate to four major value divisions.

colored wood blocks for painting color studies
My DIY colored blocks for studies.

Unlike last week, when I created 3 different versions for each value plan, I stuck as much as I could to what I was seeing in front of me. It was more difficult than the previous two weeks because I had to do more comparisons between the values in different areas of the still life and make sure they were all maintaining the correct relationship.

4-value thumbnail studies for color block paintings
I started each painted exercise with a thumbnail study to help me take the time to look critically at the values and go on to the painting step with a clear plan.

Reading about assigning values to colors and maintaining relationships between the values is one thing, and putting it into practice is entirely another! This was a fascinating and eye-opening exercise and I like how it builds off of the previous two I did. It got me more familiar with making judgments about values, which I appreciate.

I didn’t focus much on composition with this one, or worry about moving the objects around to create strong design with patterns of light and shadow. I definitely will at some point, but wanted to keep things focused on just deciphering values from color. I’d love to do more of these studies, expanding to landscapes and animals and loosening up the shapes to be more suggestive rather than tight and specific.

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