The Composition #5

“The elements of composition embrace the whole creative process.”

The Art of the Artist – Composition – by Fletcher Martin

Composite #5 CJM 5 x 7

Composite #5 CJM 5 x 7


Defining values in a composition can make or break your painting. They are an anchor and grounding component.  Values create form and give a painting structure. They also contribute to communicating space, depth and balanced design.   What is meant by the term “VALUE” in reference to painting?  A couple of definitions:

  • VALUE – “an element of art, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • VALUE –  a gradation of tone from light to dark or of color luminosity.”

Tip!   Create your own value scale from 1 to 10 going from white to black.

Tip!  Start observing by squinting your eyes to see if you can locate 4 key values in your composition

Tip! Think about painting small value studies

One of the best ways to learn about the value structure of your composition is to paint it using a single color. The goal is to define the large areas of space in your composition using a  range of light to dark tones without the confusion of multiple colors.  This “practice” can become an “underpainting” or template on which you can later apply your color.

Making your own value scale can also be helpful in terms of gaining a better sense of how value works and what it means.  Here is an example of a 10 point “value scale”. This takes you from white to black.  Any color can be substituted.  A blue or earthtone work well for “value studies” as they provide a non disruptive base on which to apply color later.  You can also limit your scale to 3 to 4 main values to keep it simple and apply those generalities to your study.

10 Point Value Scale BWThe following images are an examples of a painting by Andrew Wyeth called the Turkey Pond. I’ve converted one into grey scale for illustrative purposes.  Andrew Wyeth’s work gives a masterful example of using value. He’s worth looking at to examine value in composition.

Andrew Wyeth - Turkey Pond

Andrew Wyeth – Turkey Pond 1944 Egg Tempra on Panel


Andrew Wyeth - Turkey Pond BW

Andrew Wyeth – Turkey Pond BW

Stay tuned for more on value next week!

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