Value to color studies of apple still life

value and color study of apple still life Apr 11 2019
Still life study in values, color temperature, and brushwork

Study topics

Value study from still life; color study based on value study; lost edges; mark-making; color temperature

Process notes

Set up two green apples with colored papers near a window with afternoon sunlight. Painted a 7-value black and white study (5 main grey values plus black and white for accents only) on Arches Oil Paper. Used Gamblin Portland Greys for the middle 3 values and mixed the remaining ones.

Divided my palette into 5 columns, one for each of the main values with the coordinating grey mix at the top for reference. Using ultramarine blue, naphthol red, cadmium yellow pale hue, and titanium white, mixed piles of green, blue-grey, and violet-grey, plus a single pile of tan. To increase fluidity, I mixed a few drops of safflower oil into each pile.

While painting the color study, I tried to strictly stay within my light and shadow families and not blend away brush strokes. I used a medium sized brush for the initial color application and switched to a smaller one for more detailed strokes. I also modulated the color temperatures for interest in the flat plane and shadow areas.

value study of apple still life Apr 11 2019
Initial value study in black, white, and grey oil paints

color study of apple still life Apr 11 2019 - black and white
My color study, converted to black and white

What I learned

The best part of this exercise was how much I learned about the value relationships in my subject independent of color. By constantly comparing one area to another, it helped give me a more clear roadmap for color mixing, and where lost and hard edges could go.

I painted the value study on one afternoon, and the color study on the next afternoon. Choosing to use natural light from the window made the timing tricky because I had to wait for the light to be in the same approximate position as it was when I created the original value study. Lucky for me the second day was also sunny!

I didn’t like how smooth and blended the brushwork looked on the value study, so I made a serious effort to avoid that on the color study. I didn’t really worry about going back into an area more than once, but I did load more color or wipe my brush off after each stroke. This helped me vary the colors instead of plowing over large areas with a single color. I thought more about how it would look from several feet away versus painting-length away.

I’ve been doing some timed studies lately, but for this one I gave myself no time limits. I really enjoyed my time at the easel with the pressure of the ticking clock removed. Those timed exercises are valuable and can be fun, but I need to avoid adding that constriction arbitrarily. Slower and methodical is a more intuitive pace for me, generally speaking.

It was shocking how intense the colors were when I started laying them down next to each other on the oil paper. To get them dialed down to the intensity I wanted, I added in the complements and the colors felt a lot better to me. I really enjoyed working with the color temperature, especially with opportunities for lost edges and the warm sunlight shining onto the objects.

Thinning the paint with safflower oil worked well for me, but next time it would be good to mix it into the paint before mixing all of the individual piles.