Regardless of media or subject, it all boils down to the values of the shapes working well together …. or not.  I can accept less than gorgeous colors in a painting of resolved values and shapes more than I can accept gorgeous colors in a painting that is visually abrasive because of it’s unresolved interplay of shapes.

Black and White Comparisons at various stages

I painted an 18″ x 24″ en plein air watercolor, thrilled with working larger.  It’s difficult to swing my arm, use larger brushes and splatter color here and there when I am working small.  Wanting to stay loose, I began without any drawing to guide me.  It would have been fine if I hadn’t included the wooden structure…. but then it wouldn’t have been a painting of the gateway to our Secret Garden.  The splattering began as a way to camouflage the errors in the structure.  The next problem was the composition of light and dark shapes.  I wanted the light to show through the structure, connecting the sky with the foreground.  I also loved the light shape of the tree against the dark shape of the tree just to the right of the structure.  Unfortunately, those two shapes were too close in size and shape.  One of them had to go, for the sake of the painting.

Final resolution

I am pleased with the results.  This is a great size for me. Next time I’ll try to resolve the value shapes before I start playing with paint.  Then I’ll be free to dive into gorgeous color interactions.  In this painting, the neutralized reds added life to the green masses.

Detail of Secret Garden

Here are a few steps to begin playing the Color Scheme Game.  The game is based on a twelve hue Color Wheel.  Any medium may be used.

A Few Basic Elements of Art

In the middle box of each row I attempted to stick to the guidelines of the dice.  In the third box I either made a second attempt or altered it however I felt inclined.  These are all very quick, no attention to detail and no concern for perfection.  The goal of this game is to explore possibilities, to strengthen the ability to simplify and to call upon the left side of the brain to help make decisions without getting in the way of creativity.

I recommend using paper or sketchbook that works well with watercolor or gouache if you choose to use either medium.  The sketchbook I’m using is terrible!  I will switch to a different one tomorrow.

Use two six-sided dice or one twelve sided die.  Pick an object or group of objects.  I chose our Valentine’s Day Flowers.

Step One: Throw dice.  Divide your square or rectangle into the number of shapes shown on dice.  My first row was six, second row was three, third row was four.  I worked on one row at a time.

Step Two: Throw one die to determine your value range: 10 is lightest, 1 is darkest

1 = Full Value (Values 1 through 10) High Contrast

2 = Full Value (Values 1 through 10) Middle of the road contrast

3 = Full Value (Values 1 through 10) Low Contrast

4 = High Key (Values 4 through 10)

5 = Low Key (Values 1 through 7)

6 = Middle Key (Values 3 through 8)

Step Three: Throw both dice to determine your color scheme (I will be adding to these)

1 = Monochromatic – One Color

2 = Analogous – Three to Five adjacent Colors

3 = Extended Analogous – One primary plus three colors on either side of primary

4 = Complementary – Two colors directly opposite

5 = Double Complementary – Two sets of opposite colors

6 = Cross Complementary Tetra – Two sets of opposite colors at right angles to one another

7 = Analogous with One Complement – Three to Five Adjacent Colors with one of the color’s complement

8 = Primary Triad – Red, Yellow, Blue

9 = Secondary Triad – Orange, Green, Purple

More to come ……

Step Four: Throw dice to determine dominant color

1 = Yellow

2 = Yellow Green

3 = Green

4 = Green Blue

5 = Blue

6 = Blue Purple

7 = Purple

8 = Purple Red

9 = Red

10 = Red Orange

11 = Orange

12 = Orange Yellow

I try to have fun, be playful and to forgive myself for what I feel are disasters.

There are many variations to the game which I will continue to post.

If you think you might not have the endurance to complete both Color Wheels 3 and 4, please concentrate only on Color Wheel 4, the Color Wheel based on a nine step value scale.

Nine Step grayscale

Although there are ten (one inch) squares in this scale, I refer to it as a nine step value scale.  I don’t like even numbers.  I hardly ever use pure white in a painting unless it is a bit of the paper or canvas showing through.   Since I don’t use white, I don’t feel it is necessary to consider it a value step.  My lightest value is one with a hint of hue. I would never take the time required to create useful color wheels, charts and scales if they were based on even number gradations.  I’m just a bit weird that way.  If you like even numbers, by all means, include white. That will make your 7 step scale an 8 step scale and it will make your 9 step scale a 10 step scale.  Do whatever works for you to be happy during the multitude of hours it will take to complete these wheels.  These are not wheels to be created and tucked away in a corner.  They are meant to be used.  Following these two wheels, we will be creating some wheels that explore beautiful neutralized colors.

I find the nine step value scale to be the most useful, three steps for lights, three steps for mid-values and three steps for dark values.  The usefulness will become apparent in the next few lessons.  If you plan on making both the Seven Value Color Wheel No 3 and the Nine Value Color Wheel No 4 you will need to make two of the Grayscale strips, one with seven (or eight) steps and one with nine (or ten) steps

I suggest making large value scales blocks and cutting them into narrower strips for multiple uses.

7 step Value Scale grid on canvas

9 step value scale grid on canvas

I am showing these template grids with the additional bar for those of you who don’t mind even numbers.

I suggest painting these on canvas so that the scale is thin and can be placed under a glass palette when painting.  It can also be placed closer to the colors you are mixing so that evaluating the value of the color is easier.

Take you time and mix the values carefully until you are satisfied with the transition from one value step to the next.

You will use these grayscales for all of the lessons that will follow.

After a few attempts at value studies with my new Ciao Copic Markers I realized I needed to make value charts and identify my markers by value according to my five step and seven step value scales.

Five and Seven Step Value Scale Analysis of Markers

I have only a small selection of markers, mostly warm and cool grays.  I evaluated the value of each marker considering both a single stroke and a double stroke of each marker.

Comparing marker values to value charts

Note that my value scales run off the edge of the page.  My marker strips also run off the edge of the strip so that I can more easily compare the values.

Plotting the values

After deciding where the value of each marker, for both one stroke and double stroke, I complete my five step and seven step value charts for easy reference.  It is difficult to use the markers effectively when I try to judge the value by the caps on the markers.

Two landscape value studies

Simple value scale landscape sketches are much easier using my reference charts.