Project Friday: Painting Value Shapes

December 4, 2015


Above: Thirty minute sketch (using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Schmincke gouache) on Nideggen paper (handmade 7.5 inch square journal). I did all the painting with a large filbert. The background is blue Montana Acrylic Marker. (Text obscured for privacy.)

I’ve been doing so much line work lately in that little journal made with Rives Lightweight that I wanted to branch out a bit. And I wanted also to change my focus.

I did this sketch with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, but you can’t really see the lines. (The dark areas you see here are paint, not ink.) I drew value shapes, not features. Then I started painting with gouache, matching the values with gouache.

151127_gouache-manCRBDetailLeft: Detail of today's image. At "A" you can see a bit of ink line that didn't get covered. That's the only black fully visible in this image. Elsewhere, like at "B" you can see the ink line under the white color and the dark blue jacket. At C, in the ear opening it's all mixes of dark blue.

I picked this subject because he was an actor in a 19th century drama and I could not resist that beard with the large mutton chops. The angle was odd too, but it still worked for me, because I wasn’t looking at details but just shapes and values. (Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a given area.)

I laid in the Montana Acrylic Marker background using a 15 mm wide tipped marker. I did this when I had most of the head finished, but not the hair. I completed the under color of the hair, which is a white tinted with yellow, before adding the background.

All of this is on tan paper that doesn’t show up in the sketch anywhere. You can see the color of the paper at the right, where I blurred out writing for privacy.

This is Nideggen. It’s a lovely tan paper with inclusion flecks and a delightful wavy laid pattern. You can read a bit more about this paper and several others I enjoy binding into books at the link here.

How To Do This Week's Project Friday

It helps if you can get to life drawing and have a model who will sit still for you. This is because working in paint is going to take some drying time. Working for 30 minutes seems to work well, and allow for drawing time so you can add extra washes. If you ask a family member to sit for you let them know you want them to hold the pose for at least 30 minutes.

You can of course do it on the fly while you are out and about in public. Or you can work from a video or your favorite black and white movie. (I suggest black and white movies because the values will be easy to see.) Using 19th century photographs would also be a great idea. I don’t usually suggest you work from photographs, but some projects do lend themselves to use as photographic reference. (And 19th century photographs are in black and white, making it easier to see the values of each area of the image in relationship to another.)

You could also do a still life arrangement and set up strong lighting glancing across your subject, creating dramatic shadows, if drawing a person doesn't appeal to you.

I would also suggest, which ever route you go, that you pick a really odd and unusual angle. Pick an angle you wouldn’t normally sketch from. If you are at life drawing, sit on the floor and look up at the model. Or see if there is some way you can get up and look down on the model (safely). Pick a location where the features of the model’s face aren’t easily recognizable except as value shapes.

Once you’ve got your model and your angle of attack, or you’ve found a photo you are going to work with, get a pencil or watercolor brush and start sketching.

If you are going to use gouache like I did and you know you can hide the line with paint, then go ahead and work with a bold ink brush like the PPBP. If you are are using transparent watercolor I strongly recommend you work with a pencil, or that you paint directly with the watercolor and a brush. This exercise is about value shapes, NOT LINES, so you don’t want your ink lines intruding into the final result.

1. SQUINT. This will allow you to see the value shapes more clearly.

2. Draw the value shapes. Be careful to get them as accurate as you can. 

3. Start painting, taking care to match the values of your paint mixtures to the values you see on your subject. You can use non-natural and non-realistic color if you want to have some extra fun. It doesn’t matter as long as you get the values right!

I hope you’ll have great fun this weekend getting values down on paper.

    • Verna
    • December 4, 2015

    First, thank you for your Project Friday suggestions. I love trying them out and will be trying this one, too.

    I was wondering, why do you suggest videos and movies but generally not photographs?

    • Verna
    • December 5, 2015

    Thanks, Roz! That makes a lot of sense and something I will be keeping in mind from now on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest