I recently entered a painting into a major competition. After I entered the painting, I looked at it using the Value Viewer app. I realized that I didn’t have enough darks in the painting, and the composition wasn’t strong. The juror in that competition must have agreed, because the painting didn’t get accepted. I was glad, because it gave the opportunity to create more value changes.
I had painted what was in my image, and had forgotten a key concept – the painting has to stand alone. No one is going to have your image when they look at your painting. Just because your painting looks like your image doesn’t mean it’s a good painting. The image may not have the value changes you want in the right part of the composition. You must create an interesting composition and value changes are one of your tools. Are your darkest darks against your lightest lights in or near your center of interest? Or, do you have a dark against a light that is dragging the viewer’s eye to a secondary part of the painting? Do you have enough darks, middle values and lights? You control your composition. You are making the decisions where the dark, middle and light values should go. You need to move your viewer’s eye through the composition, and if the image you chose doesn’t have the compositional elements you need to accomplish this, you need to add them. You can change the values, lose edges, make some more prominent, change the colors, etc.
Here is the image of my painting Trail Boss as originally painted, with the Value View scale of darks and lights. As you can see, the head of the subject wasn’t connected to the bottom of the painting, and there wasn’t enough middle or dark areas. The light value area was too big.
After I got the rejection, I reworked the values, particularly the shirt and pants on the left and the background to the left. The result is a much better painting.
Value viewer is a great tool to use to check your values. I use the app on my iphone.
The next time I entered the painting, the juror agreed – Alafia Trail Boss has been selected for the 2017 Watercolor West exhibit.