Thursday, June 12, 2014

178 Use 3 values to simplify in the field

Here is an eight minute video about simplifying values in the field. In order to paint quickly you need to simplify. In the studio one might use four or five values zones–but painting in plein air you have to find a way to compress the process.

Squint to see the three value zones. At first it won't be easy. By adjusting how tightly you squint your eyes you will be able to discern subtle value differences.

The easiest value to see is the dark. The next easiest value to see is the light. Things get complicated in the middle value range but be persistent and you should be able to see the middle value zone as one flat shape. It's tempting to paint value shifts within this middle range. But force your values to be similar, making any value shifts very slight. Concentrate on keeping the middle value colors very saturated. Emphasizing color saturation will help you keep those values anchored in the middle zone.

In the accompanying video I have added light accents and dark accents into the building. If you see accents paint them in. But remember that they are accents and should not dominate or over power the basic middle value. Especially in white shapes you will notice a wide value range. But even with white objects try to keep the values as close to the middle value as you can. Don't use pure white with highlights.

This concept —though somewhat difficult to internalize—is critical to painting successfully in the field. I hope you find it useful. Let me know how it works for you.

Brad Teare — June 2014


  1. Great explanation of your process Brad. Love the painting. Thanks for sharing.
    Rob K.

    1. Thanks Rob. I've struggled with plein air painting so have tried to understand why it is so hard. Glad you connect with my explanations.

  2. The three-value method has been difficult for me to adhere to because I get so distracted by the exciting activity within each of the main value areas. But I am finding that if I paint larger rather than smaller canvases that I'm forced to simplify fast or else I get bogged down and way behind in the light. So thanks for the clear demo and explanation of it which helps engender a bolder approach outdoors,...and indoors too for that matter.

    1. I know what you mean, Steve. I have to really focus to let the saturation add variety to the large value shapes rather than shift the values.

  3. I'm just getting some things put together so I can try my hand at plein air. I really appreciate this approach as I'm such a slow methodical painter. This methodology could translate into earlier success for my outings. Thanks.


Thanks for your comments!


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