Art Video of the Week - Value & Colour

This week we return to Dianne Mize of In The Studio Art Instruction to talk about judging value beyond the black and white scale that so many of us are used to.

One of the challenges with judging colour is actually perceptual. I've been reading James Gurney's Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter and in it he talks about how we perceive colour in different lighting and in relation to each other.

In the illusion above, both the squares with the circles are the same colours and values. The shadow being cast by the cylinder creates an illusion in our eyes that the squares are different. This is the essence of Gurney's comments around perception.

One way to solve for that is via isolation. The value checker that Dianne held up at the beginning of the video shows holes punched in each value location. These, or a do it yourself version on a half black/half white card, can be helpful in isolating the colour from the surroundings. This is handy in nature where you're working from real life as opposed to photo references.

If you're working with photo references, then tools such as Photoshop or, if you're not willing to pay the Adobe tax, other tools like the GIMP, allow you to select colours from the image using an eyedropper tool. You can then create a series of colour swatches and compare your paint mixes to those. It's worth noting that you're at the mercy of both the colour depth of your display and the colour accuracy of it. I use a colour corrected Surface Studio, which is a wide gamut display that has been balanced using a Spyder colourimeter to ensure colour accuracy. That may be overkill for most, but if you want to get basic calibration you can use your operating system to help.

Another great tip from James Gurney is to lay out your value range for your colours ahead of time, doing this will speed you when you start the actual painting and it will help get your values sorted out correctly before you attempt to apply them.