The Value Scale
Identifying values can be a horrifying experience when working with hues. A comfort level can be attained by working with a gray scale and performing various exercises to reinforce your perception of the scales.
The importance of using value comes into play when one wishes to express an object's volume in relationship to the two-dimensional surface it lays upon. When viewing a black and white photograph, the viewer is able to determine the roundness of a teapot or the sharpness of the edges of a baby's block by the gradation of tonal values. Value tells our eyes if any particular part of an object's surface is in lightness or darkness. When the gradations of values from light to dark are slow and smooth in traveling across an object our brains perceived that form as a sphere, cone, cylinder or block. When the change in value is abrupt, we perceive the object as a cube.
Tonal quality of value also describes the atmosphere surrounding any particular object therefore affecting us emotionally, perhaps by triggering memories of past experience. In respect to perspective, value also describes distance. Think how value might also describe surface textures.
Perhaps most importantly, value control enables the artist to achieve harmony. Manipulating and choreographing value changes in the HUES we are using on our palettes not only describes form and volume, distance and atmosphere, but guides our eyes in traveling through a still -life or stroke piece with rest stops along the way for reflections and relevations!
1. You can make yourself a grayscale using ColorAid papers in the grayscale selections of their package. These are papers that use paint as opposed to being printed with inks. The paper assortments are available in fine art stores, and at University bookstores.
2. Paint a wooden ruler my mixing your own grayscale from Black and White acrylic paints.
The Old Masters often started a painting with an underpainting of values. This technique is called a Grisalille. This exercise can be performed as a finished pencil drawing, which I employ when mapping my CDA and MDA board studies.