Watercolor Training 1: Value Study


Welcome to Cheap Joe's Test Studio!

In this episode I'm going to show you how I begin the work ahead of time for a painting by doing value studies.

I like doing them. A lot of people don't like doing them - they get bored with it I guess. But this is a little value study done with markers. I have lots and lots of these. I use a pencil sometimes, or you can use your watercolor. But I want to show you a little bit about how I approach the value study before the painting. It does my thinking process for me and it tends to help I think.

This is the final or finished value study - it's not too detailed - but detailed enough for me to work from. I will transfer this to another sheet of paper and then transfer that to watercolor paper. By having this and not using a photograph it gives me lots of freedom in the painting. This was done with Copic Art Markers - cool gray and warm gray. They're quick and easy and have two points on them. The chisel point gives me really fine lines. The brush point lets me come in here like this, and I can go over areas I've already done.

It's a fun way to do value studies. These are very quick - no more than 2 or 3 minutes, sometimes 5. This was going to be my highlighted area of bright yellow. But it's not about color it's about value - dark and light. Here's one done with a pencil. This is in Vietnam when I was there in 2003.

Now that we've done the value study I'm going to show you how I transfer this to the watercolor paper. There are lots of ways to do that but one of the ways I do it - and I tend to be very loose - is to use the value study to create the larger drawing that will then be transferred to the watercolor paper. The reason I do that is once I get this larger drawing I can do as many paintings as I want to on watercolor paper without going through the process of doing this again and again. I only do it one time.

Here's what I've ended up with. We've done our drawing on plain sketch paper - an inexpensive paper. I've got some tape on my shirt and I'm going to tape this to the window here. What we're doing is making a light box. My watercolor paper is 140 lb. Cold Press Arches Paper and I'm going to place this over the drawing taped to the window. Look, you can see the drawing through the paper. I'm going to take my Faber-Castell 4B Pencil and trace the lines in. Once I've done this I can always come back in and clean up the edges. So don't worry if it doesn't come out exactly like you think it should because you still have your reference and your value study.

Isn't that easy?

If we mess up on this painting, you can grab a new sheet of watercolor paper and repeat the process. Now we've done our value study and transferred our drawing to the watercolor paper. The reason we did that is it will give us flexibility to change the scene - winter to summer, etc. It's an easy way to go from your sketch and value study, to the larger drawing on your watercolor paper. Now we're ready to paint!

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