Through trial and error, I’ve found that the best way to lose detail and paint more loosely is to squint at a scene and view it as three distinct values: light, middle and dark.
The 3-Step Watercolor Value Study
Below are my watercolor techniques for creating a value study with light, middle and dark tones.
I draw from the reference photo, just blocking in the larger shapes. Because it’s a study, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
When I squint at the scene, I see the sky, the light-struck area of the casino and tents, and the rocky shore as light, so they remain the white of the paper. There are many opportunities for lost edges in this large shape. The trap in this first stage of the value study lies in the fact that there’s a white casino, a sunny day and white boats in the water; however, the white boats and half of the white casino building are in shadow, so they need to be included in the first middle-value wash.
When it’s time to add the dark values, I begin with the boats to make them reappear. Next, I separate the pier from the water with the darks underneath it and its reflection. A few windows, palm trees and flags finish off the little details for interest.
Try This at Home
Create a value study based on a photo you’ve taken. Send JPEGs (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your reference photo, the three stages—light (the initial drawing), middle and dark—of your value study, and your finished painting to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a copy of Splash 14 (North Light Books). The deadline for entry is October 15.
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