values study

I’ve been sorta been dragging my feet on doing value studies using movie scenes, although I know they are highly recommended by a lot of people online.  I have really no good reason for this aversion per se, but I’ve always been adverse to using references.  I mean, I use them from time to time, but I have long-standing belief started in childhood that everything had to come from my head, or directly by examination of 3D objects – never 2D photos – in order to qualify as an artist or art.  At some point, I should post on that but I digress.  Regardless, I know it’s something I really need to get over.

So fast-forward to nearly 45 years old, and now I’m studying movie scenes  to better learn about composition and values.  For those interested, I’m taking Austin Batchelor’s Udemy course, Digitally Painting Light and Color: Amateur to Master.  He has a lot of excellent resources online, including his YouTube channel.  One interesting argument for using movie scenes is that generally they have had a lot of people involved in their production thus compositions referenced are likely better references than just picking something random of the interwebs.  And by using a photo with just a focus on values and composition, you really do liberate yourself from solving a lot of other problems that you’d normally need to solve starting from the proverbial blank canvas.  Again, these are meant to be studies, not artwork itself.

What I found interesting about this exercise is summed by the fact that is actually far more valuable than I first believed.  Its actually very hard to limit the proverbial palette to just three (3) values – you really have to make some hard decisions on what to keep and what to leave behind.  Also, working without any zooming in really help keep things fluid, similar to how a lot of people recommend doing thumbnails, really does forces you to solve the 30,000-foot view of the image; so often its easy to get lost in adding details you quickly lose sight whether a composition really reads well.   I highly recommend people interested in trying this exercise to remember to stay fast and loose.  Every time I tried to get into details, I realized I lost much of the charm and flow.

That all said, there are a few things I want to tighten up in future studies.  In particular, I did not try to strongly match actual values or too strongly match the original representationally albeit to read at-a-glance; to wit, some images do not look too strongly like the original.  I just went fast and used whatever three values I selected at random.  That all said, I will continue to refine my approach to more closely match the actual photo in future studies.

Interestingly enough, I found these studies very easy to do even when I feel I’m blocked on my own work.  And by spending 10-15 minutes per photo you get a pretty close examination of another image, along with what works and does not work in the original.

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