Usually when I begin a painting, I start with a value study, shapes in black and white and shades of gray. In one lesson that Gwen taught we took this a step further using a homemade paint recipe for the color “Payne’s Gray” (ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and raw sienna). The areas in which the light was warm (sunlight, reflected light) received a warmer version of this color combination and the cooler areas received a bluer version. I used a photo of a house and the study turned out like this:
The next step was to then paint from the value study, without looking at the original photo. We were encouraged to pick three colors, a red, a blue, and a yellow, and limit ourselves to those three pigments. We could use a realistic rendering or use “broken color,” where pigments are dropped in and mixed together in the shapes. I tried the broken color scheme for this house. As I was painting, I didn’t like how the painting was turning out because of all the fairy castle colors – until I got the values dark enough. Then all of a sudden it clicked and looked right, even though the colors were imaginary.
It all served to teach me the truth of one of Gwen’s teaching maxims:
Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work.