Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lecture on Value 101

     When an image flashes in your mind, as an artist your first instinct is to capture it exactly. That's the amateur in you reacting. The experienced artist will view that vision as a guide and know it is ok to divert from it. It's ok to change it and apply principles to make it better. Think like an artist!

      You eventually have to draw your perfect vision so one important principle to always keep in mind is value! Value is very important. Art teachers always said the word 'value' and talked about it's importance but knuckle-headed younger me never truly understood value. Not until I looked at the work of Hans Baker. His work opened my eyes to how value can be used to tell story but for this post I will only focus on Value itself and what it is...

Hans Baker, Value sets mood, space, composition. 

Light source/Time of day
      It's very important to know what the light in your picture will look like: will it be ambient? Will it be sunlight through a window? Be decisive! Below is a solid example of establishing a light source. The artist's name is Anton Azbe. Drawing with light source in mind can give shape, volume, and definition to your subject.

Anton Azbe - light source example
     Here below is another drawing of a figure, It's VERY well done. You can see form, shape and volume in the figure drawing. This piece of art was made by an artist named Den Drolet. The top drawing is not better than this one nor is this one better than the top drawing. I am comparing the two so you as the viewer can see the difference of having chosen a light source and note having established a light source. Remember that there's is no BETTER way to draw/create something. Every choice must be thought of as a tool. The 'tool' of the light source was chosen to not be used in the photo below to define the figure.

Den Drolet - using line instead of a light source to define the figure

     This by far has to be my favorite principle or 'tool'. If you ever hear me speak about movement, line, value, film or critique something, I will always mention the word 'contrast'. In value you can play light against dark. But once again, there are no rules! (I'm getting worked up just thinking about contrast!!) If you have a bunch of pictures that use dark vs lights, try making a picture with light-against-lights or even dark-against-darks! Contrast can be used in an image or used across multiple images. You can contrast where ever you want, maybe thats why I like it so much! (calm down danny you might scare the children..)

Hans baker using contrast in many ways! always draws your eye to the focal point
by making it stand out with contrast!

Balance in Texture using Value:
     A nice drawing is a nice drawing. but what separates great drawings from the rest? Many people have their opinions so I don't see why I can't put my 2 cents in :)

     I believe a good drawing PLAYS with the viewer. Plays with the principles and techniques or art. By play I mean manipulate and use them in an interesting way that gives a bump to it's aesthetic value. Whats this word Aesthetics? Click here for a Kantian view of aesthetics and arts. Let me show you some examples:

     I found this image above on the inter webs and sadly I do not know who created this pencil drawing. It's really good, no one will argue that. But let me bring your attention to the following image below by Igor Kazarin and notice that something about it captures you a bit more firmly than the drawing above. Is it bc he's looking at you? Is it bc it's nicely shaded...?

Nothing but good things to say when it comes to Igor Kazarin and his art

       I believe the Image of the bearded man is stronger bc the artist is using value to direct the viewer. He's controlling the viewer's eyes even when there is no need to (notice it's not as if this was a very crowded busy image where you had to search for the focal point.) This image has areas where there is a lot of detail and a lot of contrast to draw you in. It also has areas of rest where the value and the area surrounding it has similar shades. As the eye looks around the image it is hit with detail, it has a lot to absorb so when it comes across an area of rest (places where the value doesn't vary much) the eye relaxes and processes the piece of art. When you are hit with too much detail and no places of rest, the eye will look away.
     "LIAR! Danny but there are tons of great complicated drawings in the world! What up?" 
     True, but those still have areas of rest and there is joy in taking time to view them. But that doesn't take away from the point that I am trying to make that there is something about these drawings that push it to another aesthetic level. Where as some super photo realistic drawings are trying really hard to blur the lines between photo's and art like the Julia Roberts one above, other drawings such as the bearded man are also photo-realistic but they don't let you forget about the thinking artist behind the art.

      Which one is more interesting (Danny how dare you ask a subjective question!) To me, the one on the right is more interesting to me. The lack of lines, the use of a light source, and the contrast between values are all pushed to the extremes. The image below and the top right are made by the artist Ileana Hunter. I don't know if it's the drawing skills or the fact that it's Audrey Hepburn but I like :) 

        If Leonardo Da Vinci was doing it hundreds of years ago.. then there must be something to it wouldn't you say so?
Leonardo Da Vinci controlling the Eye like a boss
Value in Color
Who cares, draw with the wrong colors! Its all about if the values are right! A little purple in the tiger never hurt anyone...

greg manchess
Art: Stephan anderson
 Mood is Value
      Dark values are usually associated with dark feelings a low moods and the opposite goes for light values. Manipulate your values and you can have Mood!

      Wolfgang Znamanack was one of germany's most important theatre stage designer in the last century. Look at not how his colors set the mood, but the value of the colors... These stages had to be designed for dramatic Wagner Operas so it's appropriate for the mood to be quite dramatic as well!

      I made these last two images smaller on purpose to force to to click on them and get an up close view of these super cool designs! This art goes to show that your occupation can be anything and if you put good creative principles and a determined mind you can inject art/feeling into all kinds of things.

      Before you finish your drawing remember to step back and make sure the value works. Squint or step really far back. Even when you can not see details your value should still make sense and look right. :)

     All this knowledge and tips I posted here today are not things I discovered on my own. All this is an accumulation of knowledge from artist all around the world that I'm putting in one spot for you! Knowledge needs to be passed on, and I hope you take a step back and realize that now that you have read this it is your duty to pass it on to somebody who might need your help one day.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Hey thanks for taking the time to share this stuff. Its very informative and helpful and i appreciate you taking the time.

    1. you're welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read.

  2. Great post, Thanks for writing. I have been drawing a lot lately when I am not animating. This is a good reminder of the things that go into a good expressive drawing.
    I should look up that Hans Baker book. Looks stunning !

    1. Def check it out, It'll blow your mind. Keep drawing and thanks for reading!