Thursday, February 7, 2008


Tracy had requested that I talk a little about how to create value patterns. There are basically two different value patterns. The first is the natural way the light is falling on the subject creating a three dimensional image through value. This light on the subject is often what draws an artist to the subject in the first place. What they really want to depict is the light. Many times the light is partially blocked by some object which throws a light pattern on the object that is different than the natural contours of the object. Think dappled light through leaves in a garden or light through venetian blinds creating a stripe pattern on an object, etc. This is superimposing one form over another that are unrelated. You can take this idea and create your own two different images and lay one over the other.
First, create a line drawing of your image. In my case it is the three figures. Next create an abstract design with three values...white, black and grey. John Salminen has a great video where he shows how to create such an abstract design. Jane Hoffstetter in her book "The 7 Keys to Great Paintings" had a wonderful chapter on creating these abstract designs. I believe Gerald Brommer in some of his books also works with this idea. I often photograph things that have wonderful abstract shapes and intersting value patterns for just this purpose. The photograph that I posted is from the incredible Disney Performing Arts Center in LA by the genius architect Frank Gehry. He also designed the Guggenheim in Bilboa, Spain. There is a fabulous video that you can get from the video store showing his design process. It is extraordinary!!!!!! Anyway, I wasn't sure when I would get to Bilbao, but I get to the L.A. area several times a year, so I made a trip into the city to see this marvel of achitecture and took a gazillion digital photos. This is one of them. Next, I removed the color to see the values. Then, working in Photoshop Elements, I posterized it into 4 values. I then superimposed my drawing over the abstract and created a value pattern that is totally arbitrary in that it has nothing to do with the contours of the figures. I did all this in the computer with the layers feature. I have not mastered this feature so my son was literally standing over me telling me what to do next. Frankly, I think it would be easier and more effective to print out the posterized version of the photo and take my drawing which is on tracing paper and lay it over and move it around to get different ideas. There is no end of variations you can create by using an arbitrary value pattern. The benefit of value is that it is at the top of the hierarchy of contrasts as a tool for the artist to create a focal point and to lead the viewer through the painting. As you create these abstract value patterns, that is what you need to be thinking can I direct the eye all around the painting with value. Creating value patterns is a fun way to fill those wasted minutes sitting in doctor's offices or bus stops or airports or commercials on tv. Keep that sketch book with you at all times. You never know when the opportunity will present itself.


Michelle Himes said...

I've never seen this explained before so that it made sense to me. Thanks, Myrna.

RHCarpenter said...

Thanks for this explanation, Myrna, and the visuals so we can see what you are doing. I agree with you - less struggling with computer programs and just overlaying the printouts would have been easier and maybe more fun :) Can't wait to see how you work with these images now.

Tracy Wandling said...

Well that is just cool! Never would have thought of that. Thank you so much for taking the time to show us this!!!!! I think I have a couple pics that will do just nicely for this sort of thing! You're the best!!

Ambara said...

You are an amazing artist but more important you are truly a great human being... how many artist do I know that take the time like you do to explain these techniques for free? none. There is a huge difference between you and other artists who teach or give instructions.. YOU CARE and you teach from the heart, and I am honoured to know you and to have you part of my life. I really consider you my mentor.

p.s. I am working on the February challenge as we speak.

sunny said...

WOW! What great lesson!
Thanks so much!

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