Concentrating on Value

John Cage composed “chance-controlled music,” where he engaged “purposeless play” as a way to wake up to life. He also used the I CHING as a compositional tool. AND (I love this, having been a pianist in a “former life”) he used a prepared piano, where objects were placed among the strings to alter the sounds. To say this man lived and worked outside the box is totally inadequate: he didn’t seem to know there was one. (Like my son says,”There is no box.”)

A couple of his quotes really resonate with my work process:

Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness.

Out of the work comes the work.

It’s interesting that judgment and value have so many disparate “felt” meanings. We need to use our judgment all the time, but when we judge others or feel judged, it is a destructive thing, as is being overly critical of our own work.

As to value: how do we place a value on things, on others, on our work? When we talk about something having value, what do we mean?  The monetary value is related to values we hold: our beliefs, the meanings we attach to experience and things. This is an obvious association: assessing the cost,  worth,  price, or importance of something is related to what we believe in. But it’s a much bigger leap to how light or dark an object is in color (or black and white). Language is such a multifaceted and marvellous thing.

I have been concentrating on value a lot lately. I bought one of those red plastic viewers and find it invaluable (puns are not the lowest form of humor) for seeing how lights, middle values and darks are interacting in my artwork. I even attempted to make a value sketch of my latest piece to help me with the painting after I had done all my stitching.

My quilt is pieced and stitched.

My quilt is pieced and stitched: ready to paint.

I make a value sketch to guide me in the painting part of my process.

I make a value sketch to guide me in the painting part of my process.

Nita Leland is one of my favorite art teachers: each of her books is a complete workshop, probably several.

Value is probably the first element of design you learned when you started painting. It’s all about the differences between light and dark that not only show your viewer what the light is doing, but also help to define the shapes of objects in your picture, regardless of their colors. It takes practice to be able to recognize correct values. One thing that helps is to map out the values in value sketches prior to starting the painting. Another is to take black-and-white photos or scans of your finished artwork to check and see how your values are working . . . to see how effectively you’re using value contrast in your artwork.         Exploring Color Revised pp. 23, 26-27.

Now you’ll have to wait to see how the quilt turns out!


About CarolWiebe

Art entices, inspires, and delights me. Art is a vehicle for laughter, tears, wonder, enlightenment--taking me on a constant path of discovery. You can't say that about housework (except, perhaps, for the crying part).
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7 Responses to Concentrating on Value

  1. arlee says:

    such delicate colours and motifs this time—softly softly….

  2. I can hardly wait to see the finished art piece.

  3. Tammy Vitale says:

    Lesson for the day: there is no box. Ooooooooooh. It is so simply profound…and nothing I would have come up with myself despite having a piece: There is no door; there is no key. I like “no box” MUCH more better!

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  5. susie Monday says:

    I have been using a new trick to look at the values of fabrics I am using in small pieces — I throw them on my all-in-one copy/printer/scanner machine in little strips, push black copy and the “picture” that emerges gives me a great sense of value range, so I can tell instantly if its all mud.

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