I actually do two value studies. The first is 2" x 2" (top) where I greatly simplify the image to four or five main shapes, and assign values to each one. This forces me to decide on my focus and plan how the shapes and lines will lead the eye through the painting.
In the second value study, which is 4" x4", I add more detail to the sketch, and break it into three or four values. Everything in the sun is usually a light value and everything in the shade is either medium or dark value. This simplification results in a strong design and a clear statement.
Sometimes it's not easy to stay true to my original design statement as I paint. It's tempting to try to make things look true to life instead of forcing them to support the overall design statement. You can see I made a lot of changes to the foreground chairs and figures in order to make them stay in the shadows and not detract from the other elements.
For this view of the Luxembourg gardens, I did a lot of cutting and pasting in the original photo to get the figures where I wanted them.
There's a lot going on in this scene, and the photo is a bit jumbled. I decided that the three main elements were the castle, the foreground column and wall, and the figures.
I'm still working on this painting. You'll have to stay tuned to see how well I hold to my original design concept!
This is a really cute scene, but, value-wise, it's a bit confusing, especially in the middle. My first value study is an attempt to tame the values , but I don't think I really figured it out until the second value study. That's one of the advantages of doing two.
In the sketch I've changed the pose of the woman in the foreground so that she faces the man and is gesturing in conversation. I also lightened the values behind them–and darkened their clothing–so that they really come forward.