Monday, February 28, 2011

Do you know your values?

I painted a couple of value studies this last week and I was struck again by how much I love doing them. In some ways I enjoy painting them more than full color versions. (Both of these paintings are from photos we took along the trail a couple of weeks ago.)

A different view of three islands

Value studies are when you paint a subject in one color, usually a very dark gray-black like Payne's Gray, concentrating on the darks and lights.

Maybe the reason I like value studies so much is because the the course is so clear: I must stay true to the values of the subject, reproducing those values accurately if I am to be successful. Yes, there are still mistakes to be made, technical and compositional blunders waiting to happen. But the interesting thing is that if I stay true to the values of the piece, it can overcome other errors.

Isn't that a little like life? There are so many decisions to make that it can be overwhelming. What if I make a wrong choice? What if I screw up somehow? I don't think it matters as much as we think it does, as long as we're staying true to our values. Of course, that presupposes that we know what our values are, that we've thought about them, studied them, held them up to other values to see if they hold true.

Geese on the sandbar - a cropped version of a photo we took along the trail

I wonder how many people have consciously thought about defining their values. There is responsibility that goes along with knowing your values. If you don't live according to them, you suffer. Maybe people think it's easier to just "go with the flow" and not give it a lot of thought.

I think, in the long run, they're wrong. It is sure easier to navigate life if you have a clear set of values. I'm not saying it is easy. You can still make mistakes and life WILL put rocks in your path and gale force winds in your face, but it sure helps to know the cut of your sail.


  1. Not sure when I'll be in Spokane, but I definitely think I'll have to buy one of your value studies. (If you'll sell one, that is.) I LOVE THEM!

  2. I'm so glad!! I love them too. I think the one at the top is my favorite. In fact, I don't even want to paint it in color. I'd be happy to sell. I ship :)