Friday, June 1

The Biggest Mistake Painters Make

How do you like the headline on today’s blog?  I think it will get most painters’ attention. Of course, it’s only my opinion of what a painter’s biggest mistake is, but I think I'm right, all things considered.

Call it what you like, but the biggest mistake most painters make is:
- The failure to correctly render value in representational paintings
This problem may also be known as:
-Not getting your darks dark enough
-Not painting enough contrast
-Painting everything in the mid-values

We painters all know, or definitely should know, about the value scale. If you don’t know what that is, then that’s your first mistake. Gaining additional knowledge about values may be just the thing you need to improve your work.

It’s elementary, really, but picture a horizontal bar that’s white on one end and black on the other. The value of white is 0 (zero), and the value of black is 10 (ten). I think everyone can get this.

But it’s what’s in between the 0 and 10 that’s most important. Numbers 1 through 9 correspond to ever darkening values as the darks intensify and white changes to gray and then to black.

That sounds simple and easy to understand, but it's hard to transfer that knowledge to your actual work. The confusion comes, I believe, when painters confuse color in their paintings with the value scale just described. Or worse, they don’t even realize the relationship between the two.

It’s confusing because you can have the following example. Orange can have a darker value (a 6,7, or 8) than blue, even though when you think about these two colors, you’re more likely to think of orange with a lighter value (a 1,2, or 3) than blue. (And many oranges do have a lighter value than many blues. )

To make matters worse, the term "tone" is sometimes used instead of "value," so painters confuse the two, thinking they are two different things, but they're not.

And that's why it gets confusing. Anyway, you have to learn and understand value and its importance, then you need to use what you know in your paintings.

Otherwise, something can be terribly wrong in what you consider your best work, and you may not even know why.  Now that’s a mistake!

Keep On Painting

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