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Practicing values


I've spent the last two months doing small 6x8" value / colour studies on pieces of MDF and am finding it to be quite a useful exercise I think. I got the idea from a video I watched called 'The Masters Mind' by Brian Mark Taylor, which I believe is based on the research of Anders Ericsson ( He suggests studying a single area for 2-3 months for a few hours a day in order to see progress in that specific thing (as long as you're practicing the right way). I spent 1-2 hours on each of these, somewhat sporadically due to time constraints. Anyway, it's an interesting approach. Here are the practices:

They're not actually in order here, but I think there was an improvement over time. I found creating a small thumbnail five value monochrome sketch in marker before starting painting and then mixing my colours (just eyeballing the hue) to match those values accurately was a real help. I was originally planning to do 50, but think I may stop before then. Has anyone else tried this technique? Thanks for looking!
dencalForgivenessPaulBElizaBuckyArtGalRenoirSummerBOB73RUESGAMikeDerbytassieguyMichaelDKaustav[Deleted User]clare19ElizedlailGary_HeathJuliannaIntothevoidanweshaWeatherfordDiannaDebBurton


  • Great work! and yes I have been recently learning to render quick value sketches and thumbnails while only using 2, 3 no more than 4 values in each. This is great for monotone and color oil sketches both. I find this method really easy to develop into a full painting when I wish.
  • Terrific work and a great way to gain experience with DMP skills the architectural studies are amazing.
  • how do you limit yourself to just 2-3 values @PaulB, not sure I see the benefit.
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    BOB73 said:
    how do you limit yourself to just 2-3 values @PaulB, not sure I see the benefit.
    I don't Bob.  You might be thinking of @Julianna's lilac paintings that began that way?
  • edited June 16
    In the month of March I completed a painting with very few values, "Cityscape". The lesson was about being efficient, skill development, distinguishing a great number of values in a scene or in a set up and learning to reduce these to only a few for a more efficient painting experience and less labored at, great as a sketching tool prior to the painting, it's fast. This exercise is also great for en plein air in quickly capturing a scene while in the field, especially so if the artist plans to build on the scene in the studio after the fact. It's sort of like learning shorthand, or is this a long forgotten saying now. Does shorthand still exist? Does anyone remember shorthand? Lol! A close up look at Norman Rockwell's work will reveal the wonders of this skill in his hands, take a close look at his brush strokes, and he was a very fast painter, he was efficient and really well skilled and he had a sense of humor added.
    [Deleted User]critterisfun
  • edited June 16

    These 3 example paintings were painted using only 2 values. I especially like the 3rd one in this row perhaps because of the high contrast as well.
  • Your small studies are excellent, @gar3thjon3s. Did you do them from life?
  • @gar3thjon3s  I like these minis. Its a great idea and food for thought.
    Thanks for sharing
  • edited June 16
    @Forgiveness, yes I remember shorthand. I think my mum did a course in it decades ago. It was a fast way of writing things down, useful for people taking minutes at a meeting. It just looked like squiggles to me.
    [Deleted User]Julianna

  • Hope you change your mind and do 50 or 100 of these in total--haha. 

    Seeing these has made my day. 

    Thank you for sharing.  :) 


    [Deleted User]Julianna
  • Amazing paintings!
  • @Summer haha thanks, I've still got about 15 6x8" panels left over so I may try and get them all filled. I'll probably choose a few that I like and try and work them up to 12x16 and see how that turns out.
    @Kaustav thank you :D 
  • I can’t believe they are only 6”x8”! Absolutely beautiful @gar3thjon3s.
  • A great exercise, and successfully done.  Mark does say somewhere just try to paint your next masterpiece and hang the studies, and while I get where he's coming from I do think exercises serve to build confidence and technique.  Just remember they are a means to an end and not an end in themselves..
  • gar3thjon3s

    If you were to follow the instructions to the letter 100 paintings @3 months each that is 25 years.

    My take on the value of such an exercise is that it is not the time or the quantity that makes the difference.
    The purposeful and deliberative practice is what dramatically improves paintings.
    For example: isolating the elements at fault, whatever they may be, perspective, texture, variety, pattern, values, and then setting about the analysis, study, practice and skill development to improve for the next painting.


  • @Elize thanks!
    @Gary_Heath thanks, yes I know what you mean it is easy to get carried away doing these things
    @dencal the advice was to paint one small painting a day spending about one hour per painting for around three months! I agree there must be analysis of what was wrong with each one to see improvement in the next. At the end of it I do feel more confident and better able to judge values so for me it was successful in that regard. If I were to do it again, I would probably limit myself to white and one other colour to remove colour choices from the equation. I used three plus white for all of these.

    One outcome of this is I now tend to do a small value study with markers limited to four values before starting a painting and mix my colours to match those values.
  • edited June 24
    I love that book!!!    Your sketches are fantastic and how wonderful that you stuck to it!  I think they are lovely - are there any that you love enough to take to a bigger canvas.  

    The ones with the architecture really stand out to my eye - fantastic and they would make some gorgeous large,framed paintings!
  • edited June 25
    @gar3thjon3s I discovered same when it comes to choosing the subject material, being more careful for the same reasons you mentioned above. I also rediscovered drawing and thumbnail sketching in similar way through the process. This in turn is helping me to rediscover and redefine just what is more meaningful to me and for my sense of confidence.
  • edited June 26
    What makes these so good is deft composition, good drawing, accurate values and the broad brush treatment. Detail would destroy small studies like these. I love them. :)
  • I like the bigger brushes too, flat, wide and real cheap, they are very efficient and effective.
  • These are great! It seems  like you got the lesson now, and I think that's the point. For me this helps in rendering the sketches before any serious painting, and makes this part of the process more exciting. This also helped me to develop a keener eye for subject matter while I am scouting outdoors, and for photography. This is what it is like to develop the "eye of the painter" within me, and the more I practice, the better this skill stays with me.
  • I really like this one. It's just the bare essentials but all the essentials are there and so it reads true. This is obviously a very important exercise that you've been doing. As soon as I get the chance I'm going to give it a go.  :)
  • @Forgiveness thanks, yeah I feel like this one went quite smooth and I now have a rhythm of analysing the values quickly and then painting which is nice:
    @tassieguy thanks, I have found it really useful. His other suggested study topics were the usual, composition, drawing, and also master studies. I’ll probably try some master studies next I think...
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 1
    You and @Kaustav are a good influence on me.  This is something that I should be doing as well.  I am going to try and incorporate it into my workflow.  Maybe trying to take shortcuts by just studying a potential painting by just thinking about it isn't enough.  Thanks.
  • These are excellent Gareth! 
  • @Richard_P thanks! I'd like to paint larger but just don't have large chunks of time to paint at the moment so I'm enjoying these
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 10

    These are really OMG good!  All of them.  What you know and employ about painting is working for you in these studies.  And you are prolific, like @Kaustav.

  • edited July 9
    I like them all but number 2 is break your heart beautiful. The subdued colours (but dead true values),  the compositonal simplicity, the deft brushwork, the overall economy of means ... just beautiful! This is the sort of painting I can't resist buying when I visit commercial galleries.  :)
  • Love all of these, but particularly the one with the little bridge across the canal and the one with the road where you live. The light is magic in all of them 🙂
  • Thanks for the kind comments!

    @Summer thank you, I don't feel very prolific in general as I'm a massive procrastinator but the smaller size of these has helped with this I think.

    @tassieguy wow thanks, I restricted myself to yellow ochre, ult blue, burnt umber and titanium white only which probably explains the muted colour. I think pretty much all of these paintings only use three colours plus white to simplify things. 

    @MichaelD cheers!

    @toneli thanks! I think the road where I live is my favourite of the group. I just started another of the same road last night :)
  • edited July 11
    You have a real nice collection of these now. I really enjoy these. In this latest one above, was it mid day light?
  • I'm amazed at how conistently good these small value studies are. You've done a heap now and they are all keepers.  :)
  • you are already so good at painting... i hope you paint some larger versions of the architecture paintings... especially that tower in grey... it was too good!
  • @Forgiveness thanks, yes it was midday. I snapped a photo while out on a lunch time walk if I remember
    @tassieguy haha thanks, I'm not sure what to do with them to be honest. They are piling up on my shelves :/
    @anwesha that's very kind of you, I certainly feel very much like a beginner still. I hope to get to some larger paintings when I've used these small panels up!
  • @gar3thjon3s This is excellent I'm in awe you have such a deep understanding of value and composition, I wish I could paint like that!!! :o
  • @RUESGA cheers! I wouldn't say I have a deep understanding of either, but these practices have certainly improved my handling of values I think.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 13
    I have just learned that it isn't enough for me to just stare and study the values that I am about to paint.  I need to practice hand and eye coordination.  Guess I will be changing my work flow to include more sketches that will have the same elements that go into larger paintings. 
  • These. Are. GORGEOUS!! the mood you've captured is stunning! Your brushwork, composition and color are to die for. I hope you try to sell these or at least display them as a group somewhere! Wonderful!!
  • I mean....c'mon. Gorgeous! 
  • @JessicaArt cheers! I was considering registering on actually and seeing if I could sell some of the better ones to recoup some of the money I've spent on paints and brushes. I wonder if anyone else on the forum uses this site, it seems like a good option for selling small pieces.
  • Why not approach a gallery? They seem worthy of it to me! 
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