Recently in my IGNITE! art-making membership, I asked members: What’s your favourite lesson so far? Happily, many of them said they found it difficult to make a decision (“A difficult question- each lesson has been so valuable”) but one of the lessons that emerged as a group favourite was the one on value dominance.
And what do I mean by value dominance you may ask.
Simply, it’s the idea that one value prevails over all others. The best time to put this idea to work is when you’re doing your thumbnails (and you know how I looooove thumbnails!!). The thing is to make sure one of your three values – dark, middle, light – covers a large proportion of the surface. You choose which value depending on the subject and the desired effect.
This concept of value dominance first came to my attention years ago when I was reading Harley Brown’s book, Eternal Truths For Every Artist. There, he shows a rectangle with three values taking up almost equivalent space….and it’s….well….it’s boooorrrrring!
He then shows another example. This time, one value – in this case, the dark – takes up more than half the surface, while the light value occupies only a smidge of space, and the remainder is a middle value.
Whoa!! Sooooo much more interesting.
And those are just rectangles of black, grey, and white. Imagine these areas in a more dynamic arrangement with each other – a powerful painting in the making!!
The thing is, even when we know this concept, we often forget to incorporate it when doing our thumbnail planning. Raise your hand if that’s you. (I’m definitely raising my hand! 🙋♀️)
And yet it can make such a powerful difference (as members in my IGNITE! community have discovered!).
Let me show you what I mean through a variety of thumbnails.
On a visit with my friend Sandy last fall when it was still warm enough to sit outside (the best way to visit during the pandemic!), I took a photo of him that I’ve been wanting to paint since then. Naturally, a set of thumbnails is in order before proceeding to the painting stage.
The first thumbnail below comes closest to what I see in the photo. When you’re creating thumbnails, you’re making judgements and choices about which areas to slide into which value.
When you compare the two thumbnails – middle value dominant and light value dominant – you can really see the difference in the effect on you as a viewer. Then compare them to the initial thumbnail and see how much more powerful they are, even though they hold different value dominances.
Let’s have a look at a few other examples. You’ll see dark value dominance, middle value dominance, and light value dominance.
I hope this gives you an idea of what I mean when I say value dominance and I hope you can see how using it can strengthen your painting.
The best way to play with this idea is in your thumbnails. Keep them small and work quickly. This is where you can experiment and push this dynamic effect!
So far, I’ve only used one of the thumbnails above to create a painting (Tuscany Vista) but I can’t wait to use the rest of them!
Creating thumbnails is such a great way to use your time when you aren’t quite up to painting. When you do feel like putting pastel to paper, hallelujah, you have an inventory of thumbnails to work from and you can get stuck into painting right away. How cool is that!!!
Remember, equal amounts of value can equate to a boring painting. So try, when you get to planning your painting, to put value dominance to work.
I’d LOVE to know what you think of this concept. Do you use it? Or is this a new idea for you? Let me know by leaving a comment. Feel free to ask a question too if anything isn’t clear.
Until next time,
PS. And by the way, if you’re interested in joining IGNITE! we open starting 21st March. We only open a couple of times a year so this is your chance to get in and see what it’s all about!! Click HERE to hear all about it.
PPS. Harley Brown’s book – one that I’ll never part with!!