Wrap-up of 30 Days of Value Thumbnails challenge

30 Days of Value Thumbnails
Studying value structures and composition with simple shapes, mostly from photos but a few plein air in the mix

My 30-day Value Thumbnail challenge is complete! I’ve loved this project for so many reasons.

  1. Developing the habit of doing thumbnails to quickly see the strengths and weaknesses of the composition
  2. Great practice for breaking a complex subject down into simple shapes
  3. Got me more comfortable making decisions on the value structure of a landscape scene
  4. Gave me experience with troublesome or tricky value structures
  5. Taught me more about creating depth and atmosphere in a landscape
  6. Helped me appreciate the importance of the underlying shapes, values, and color relationships over brushwork, details, and color matching
  7. Lots of experimentation with the temperature of the light and underpainting colors

In general, it helped push me to try many different things much more quickly than if I had planned out full paintings.

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - mini color studies
Exploring color and atmosphere in little 3×4-inch painted studies

I also incorporated some plein air value thumbnails into the mix which I’m really excited about. Painting outdoors is something I want to do more of, but the mental blocks I have about it have held me back. I’m very grateful for Karen Margulis and all of the resources and training she provides on Patreon. Even though her primary medium is pastel, her approach to daily painting has been key for me: start with a plan (decide the why, create value thumbnails and good composition, select colors), then loosen up and have fun. I adapted this value thumbnails challenge from a combination of a few of her weekly challenges. She’s excellent at making things that feel overwhelming and complex much simpler and achievable.

The project helped uncover some areas I’d like to work on developing:

  • getting the values of the dark shapes the way I want them (typically the upright planes like trees in landscape painting) when mixing paint colors
  • how to choose underpainting colors that support the mood of the painting
  • lightening colors without dulling them down
  • accurately reading the values of the colors I mix on my palette
  • mixing greens and choosing colors to use with them for harmony, interest, and atmosphere

I’m in the middle of the plein air challenge I started a couple of weeks ago, and hopefully I can be incorporating some of these other topics and working on some completed paintings as well.