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Art Lessons: Value Scale

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value scale is very important because it,
you need to see the world in terms of
So if you have the wrong value and the
right color, you're
going to be all over the place, you're
gonna be messy, you're gonna be lost.
If you have the right value in the wrong
you're going to be way more on track.
So values are one of the most important if
the most important thing with respect to
drawing and painting.
So I've made up, here, a, value scale, and
I go from my, a white to a black.
And I have one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine, ten values here.
And actually the reason that there's a
hole in each one is because sometimes when
I'm painting, I wanna see what that color
And I'm able to, I'm, I wanna see what
that value is when I'm painting.
So I'm able to hold the value up to the
paint and
see where it is in terms of, like, is that
red, eh, oh, the red is right around here.
Is that blue light?
No, no, no.
The blue is right about here.
So this actually enables you, if you keep
one eye closed and you look through it,
it's kind of a really good assessment of
where your colors are at, so
that you're keeping on track with your
But right now, I'm going to do a value
I've got three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine values that I'm gonna put
One is going to be obviously black.
It's gonna go from my darkest dark to my
lightest light.
And immediately when I start a painting,
in the first five minutes I,
I already have assessed what my darkest
dark is and what my lightest light is,
because that will gauge where I need to
The problem that artists face most is they
mostly work in a midrange of values.
So they don't have enough lights, nor do
they have enough darks.
They're usually right in the midrange.
You see that especially when, people are
painting in color and
it starts to look really muddy.
So that's because they're all in that
midrange of browns and grays and
everything looks kinda muddy and murky.
That's because they're not popping their
So, artists like Howard Pyle say that you
know within the first five, ten minutes,
just get your darkest dark and your
lightest light, cuz that will give you
a really good understanding of where you
are and where you need to go, so.
Right now I'm going to just put my, get my
black on right here.
And I'm working with an ivory black which
is beautiful.
And you know my teacher Burn Hogarth who
was the teacher
of dynamic anatomy if you've ever got that
book, Dynamic Anatomy,
he is a great, he's a great teacher, he's
a great comic book artist and
he was a great artist and he always used
to say, he always used to ask us.
Is black a color?
And the students would say sometimes well,
no of course it's not a color.
It's the absence of light.
You know, cause in science right, it's the
absence of light.
And he'd be like no it's a color.
It was really intense.
And he used to explain how it was a color.
And how it was a cool, actually, that's
what he would say.
Now Sergeant always thought that black was
a color.
And yeah, use black as a color.
Absolutely, I used to be afraid, in
school, they don't really like you to use
black, to mix with black, because it
becomes kind of a crutch,
you're like, why I gotta make it darker,
I'm just going add a black.
That's easy.
But the problem is, is that when you start
using it as a crutch, but yeah.
If you don't use it as a crutch, and use
it sparingly,
and intelligently, absolutely a color,
beautiful color.
So for me, there's Ivory Black, and
there's Mars Black.
And Mars Black is a warmer black for me.
Personally, warmer to my heart, to my
spirit, to my soul.
But, ivory is a, a little bit more
That's my experience.
Like I said, everyone experiences colour
and value differently.
So experiment with it but this is one of
the assignments that you have to do.
You have to do a value scale.
I've actually done like, God, I don't
thousands of value scales and I've learned
so much by doing value copies.
Like I'll take a master painting by a
Michelangelo or Rembrandt or, a Raphael.
Or a Repin or a Fechin and I'll do a value
painting of that to see
how, where my dark darks are, where my
light lights are.
How they controlled their values, how they
controlled their reeds.
And I, I learned so much from doing value
studies, value copies.
I've also learned so much about my own
When I do, when I do my own paintings, I
always do a value key.
I always do a little black and white
interpretation of my pencil drawing.
And that actually, I found, is more
helpful than my color keys,
because a value key will allow me to see
what my darkest darks are,
what my lightest lights are, where I want
the viewer to go,
like, as a director painter.
Because I'm really directing the visual,
the visuals, and
I'm taking my audience on a journey
through my painting.
I want to be able to control where their
eyes go.
And where their eyes go is, is paramount.
So you really have to do a value key in
order to see that.
So I've got my my dark, dark, my light,
So I have my black and my white.
And now I wanna kinda go one, two, three.
And then right here.
One, two, three.
So right here is going to be my mid color.
It was gonna be my mid tone.
So I'm gonna take my white and my black
and put it there for my midtone.
So I'm gonna take a big scoop-a-doop of
the black right here.
then I'm going to, I'm going to take
actually more, like that.
Then I'm gonna take my white.
And I'm gonna try to make it an even
amount of both.
And this'll be my midtone.
There okay, so does that feel like it's
half way between white and half way
between dark?
So you kinda you, you kinda look at it,
you gotta quickly make an assessment you
take a black and you take a white.
Cuz it's so, it's a lot closer it's a lot
easier to see.
And you take your gray.
So, for me that feels, that feels about
So, I'll take that, that midtone and just
plug it in.
It's creamy.
Yes, right here.
So I'm rolling it, rolling it,
making sure that I don't have any streaks,
so I can put down a nice even paint
Using my maul stick to control my
direction, my direction.
direction, and then what I wanna do is I
save this so I can do a painting with
with these colors, with these values.
I wanna scoop this up.
And put it right here in the middle.
But really kinda try to work in an
organized, clean way.
It's real easy to get messy and start
making mistakes.
Bad, bad habits.
gonna take that gray here, I'm gonna take
a little bit of that white.
Start going, going a little higher like
Take a little bit more, feels about right.
There we go.
Gonna roll in my paint brush.
And, right about there.
[NOISE] Right about there so,
really trying to make equal steps.
My intervals are gonna be as equal as
I'm using that brush that had the mid tone
on it, but I'm rolling it in so it makes
an even tone.
Tones have to be even when you put it
You have to be very deliberate with your
stokes as well.
Very deliberate.
And bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.
So it's nice.
Now, we're gonna add a little bit more
And just kinda scooping that up.
Getting that really fast and furious.
Now this exercise is going to help you be
a way better painter
and an artist as well.
I mean, you know, it's what it is, it's
all about controlling your values.
Controlling your colors.
How can you control your colors if you
can't control your values?
And this, this exercise is great if you
wanna draw well too because it's black and
white so you can directly translate.
When you're ready to make the jump from
drawing to painting.
Or the move to drawing to painting, it's a
great way to kind of move is to value.
So before, as an art student,
before you start painting in color you
start to do value.
So you always have the student do pe,
pencil and charcoal.
And then they've got a handle on value.
Then you move to paint.
So you start to get a handle on.
We've already got a handle on value so
we start to get a handle on the actual
medium of paint.
And you see that it's kind of, in a lot of
ways more freeing
because you're allowed to take your,
you know, just different tools like flat
brushes and big brushes.
And you weren't able to do that with, with
charcoal and pencil, and you're able
to just get a little bit crazier [NOISE]
and have more fun and experience more.
So here now, the final move,
[NOISE] right here will be,
you know, a lighter light.
Make it even brighter, right here.
So we are going to handle and take care of
amazing side over here.
[NOISE] Okay, like that.
Wanna just push it down.
Get it in the center there and then ball
stick comes up.
This is one of the most basic
things you can do.
And you could have it around your studio.
You could always reference it.
You could hold it up to your model, you
could hold it up to your painting.
You could drill holes in it to see where
is my color to match my value?
Ooh, right there.
You could make it a party favor.
And put it into your, bring it to a party.
Look everybody, I did a value scale.
Why'd you bring that?
Oh, cuz I wanted to do something
Everybody here was doing other party
favors that weren't as artistic.
Now, that's weird.
Why'd you do that?
Okay, maybe don't do that, that's not a
good idea actually at all.
But it's amazing for your own reference
your own paintings and drawings actually.
And I would recommend not only doing this
in paint but
doing this value scale in pencil and in
And really trying to get it to, to
So when you squint your eye, it goes from
a perfect light to a perfect dark.
Even though there's lines between each
one, if you squint,
you should be able to see a perfect line.
Like really squint, like this.
And in terms of my value skills, squint so
much that you can't see.
Cuz it's not perfect, so you gotta.
Yeah, it's perfect.
So now I'm gonna grab that mid tone here.
And I'm going to put it down right about
See now that I have that midtone, it's
See, I haven't lost it, so I could go back
into it like that and add my blacks now.
So now I'm gonna go towards the darks.
That's quite a jump but it's okay.
Gotta jump it.
See if you keep your midtone then you
could go all the way up by
just adding black to your pile of paint.
If you throw your midtone out then you
kinda have to
figure out your midtone again.
So that's the only value that I save.
You have your black out of the tube, you
have your white out of the tube, and
your mid-tone you need to save.
So you need to make enough midtone to put
on your palette.
Okay, so there you go.
That's a nice jump.
You like that?
The jump?
Pretty good.
[SOUND] Bam.
now I'll even add more dark to that
existing pile.
A palette knife is really handy,
you can do it with your brush, it's gonna
take you longer and
because you have a wider surface area.
So you're able to just mix it.
Mix more of it and mix it faster.
gonna make a little bit more of the jump
just for, to kind of, get my point across
you know, you can do a value scale from.
A hundred different values, a thousand
different values.
But I would stick around nine, the most
fifteen, the least six.
That's kinda what I recommend so you could
really see it.
So here you go.
Love putting paint down, love how it
Just something very sensual and
beautiful about it and a emotional.
[NOISE] There we go.
Yes sir, there we are.
Beautiful values.
Now I'm going to take this pile.
Move it over here.
Make this a really, such a dark, dark.
But not black.
Now you could see that like, you could
really just mix a value between here and
here, and here and here, and here and
here, and here and
here and just go on forever and forever
but the point of
this exercise is to really step your value
so that.
When you’re painting, you know right away
where to go.
Is that my is that my mid tone, is that my
local value, is that my highlight,
is that my accent, is that my core?
Where am I?
What am I doing and how do I do it?
This is going to help you so much.
It does it, you know it takes time to do
Not too much time.
And you could always do it this way too.
You don't have to be, you know, get
straight lines, line it across.
You could always do it this way but
I recommend this way as an exercise
because it's training you.
It's training you to really be fastidious
about your decisions.
[NOISE] Now if you squint down,
even though, there's so
many steps between each one.
They should be equal enough intervals so
that you could squint down and really.
Allow your eyes to blend them equally.
So that you're not.
So it feels right and organic.
Now there is one other thing just
as a kind of an anal thing here is I,
I went over that value into that, and
that's going to disturb me on a personal
So almost, that's kind of disturbing me
So there you have it.
That is your value scale.
Try it at home, try it with your friends,
try it in a group, try it with your kids.
Do it before you do a painting so that you
can really use it and look at it.
Try this.
If you're crafty, you can do it.
I just did this on a ruler.
And you drill a hole in it.
And make sure that this one is actually
done really cleanly because you can
use that forever.
But this is an important exercise to do.
So everybody should do this, and everybody
can do this.
Everybody can do this.