How to train that Technique ?

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  03 March 2011
Question How to train that Technique ?


I am referring to this tutorial from Ron Lemen, where he describes how important it is to understand simple forms. Well... unfortunately I am one of the students, totally lacking in getting that thing right.

I do have big, big problems to block out values. To make it easier, I prefer to paint just with black & white, so I don't need to worry about colors now.

If you take a look at the images below (referring to Ron Lemen's paintings and tutorial), you can see what I want to achieve.

Link to the Tutorial

Especially image 1 and 2 are the ones which I can't get right.

I even tried to use much easier objects, like cylinder shapes, cubes, spheres or what ever.
But I think my biggest issue is the fact, that I can't get the values right.

I found this tutorial very interesting, especially of the given value bar, which you can see below:

But I am a bit confused in regards to the given value bar.

Because what is, if I do have a photo as reference but with totally different values ?
Or better.... can I use this value bar for any kind of painting ?

This really confuses me.

- How can I train myself in order to get the first 5 minute blocking done right ?
- Are there any special methods ?
- Training lessons you can recommend ?

And finally... has this technique... or method any given name ?
For me it looks like a bit .. hmm, like blocking values.... not sure... but would be also great to know if this method has actually any given name.

thank you so much for any little help !
  03 March 2011
I think it's important to keep in mind that this particular tutorial is but one aspect of all of Ron Lemen's knowledge, and it isn't something written in stone. If he was to teach about the lighting ratios and value divisions using different keys of lighting (high-key, low-key, middle-key), he might have something different to say.

For me, it's all relative. If I happen to be painting a classic high-key scene, with very low light vs. shadow ratio, and emphasize the solid darks, then that value bar wouldn't be as useful. In general, I would prefer a normal value bar of equal value steps, and then simply pay attention to the overall dynamic range of my painting's values and whether the overall look is descriptive enough. The danger of having a bunch of washed out middle tones isn't hard to address--it's a matter of being vigilant and exercising critical thinking and careful observation.

To do the initial block-in, you can try squinting your eyes and look at the reference so that the detailed value transitions are all merged together into more general values, match that general values to particular steps on the value bar, and then depict those simplified general values. It's important to understand the behavior of light, so that when you observe, you can tell what is the middle tone, the highlight, the hot-spot, the form shadow, the cast shadow...etc, and then assign a general value to each.

In my workshop (linked in my signature), I have a particular assignment that's been really challenging for students, and it trains exactly this ability--to make critical decisions about value division, and using limited value numbers (flat values, no gradation) to convey as much as possible. This assignment has really opened the eyes of the students when it comes to values and how to manage them effectively.

The process of blocking in general values/colors and then gradually layer more details in successive steps is really just a workflow. Some artists use it, and some don't. For example, there are artists who immediately start working in full detail starting at a particular spot of the painting, but that requires a lot of experience--usually only master painters can pull if off. Most alla prima and plein-air painters work that way.
  03 March 2011
Question hmmm...

Thank you very much for your thoughts about this topic.

When I see the so called "blocking-in" method, I always wonder if artists already blending values ?

What I mean is... should I keep my brush with 100% opacity, or would you recommend to block in with any kind of opacity, like 30%-50% ?

@Relativity of values:
Hmm.. I thinnk I can understand you.... and I think you are totally right, because every painting, even every photo has his own values - somehow. There is one more thing about that topic.

How can I determine the values ?

As instance... below you can find a photo of a face I found on google.
I think it can give us a nice example, because it's a photo without any colors yet.

If we observe the image, we can see that there is one main light source coming from the left (looking through the viewer side).

But how can you determine the light side and the dark side of that object ?

Well.. please find below my approach.... I am not sure if I do that right.

I tried to split the face into two sides.

Since the light source is coming from left, I just indicated the two sides like shown above.

Now let me point out what I can't understand.
Ron wrote in his tutorial, that the LIGHT SIDE has a range of values - and the DARK SIDE has his own range of values.

But when looking at the face, I can clearly see that I can find also values on the LIGHT SIDE which actually belong to the DARK SIDE ! If I take the left eye, below the eyebrows... there I can find these values. And that would mean, that I would need to mix VALUES FROM THE DARK SIDE with VALUES FROM THE LIGHT SIDE ?

Or is it just simple wrong how I picked the LIGHT SIDE and the DARK SIDE ?
How would you determine the values of the DARK SIDE and the LIGHT SIDE on that example ?

This is my main issue ... since I was reading a lot about it, but never ever someone showed me on a practical example how you would pick the values - it's very hard for me to understand, how I should start doing that --> picking and determining the right values ?

thank you so much
  03 March 2011
It seems to me you are missing some of the most basic foundational knowledge. I highly recommend that instead of grabbing random tutorials off the net and trying to understand them (which often will misguide you because you don't understand the knowledge in proper context), you actually learn in a systematic way using an established courseware that takes you from the most basic to the more advanced concepts. I'm likely going to repeat my workshop in a month or so, so you might want to consider it. You can find out all the details from the link in my signature.

If you're not ready for a two-month online workshop, then you can try learning from good books that start you off from the beginning, such as the book by Andrew Loomis. Start with Fun with A Pencil and then work your way up to Successful Drawing and Figure Drawing for All It's Worth, and then the last two advanced books like Creative Illustration and The Painter's Eye. These can all be found online for free, and have been legendary among artists for decades.

But to guide you out of the woods for now, without going into all the basic foundational knowledge, I'll try to simplify it so you could understand. Essentially, your way of thinking is incorrect, and this is partly because you have only been exposed to one very specific context, and don't know the rest of the big picture. Instead of thinking only of the dark and light side, or the lit and unlit side, you must also think about form. A human face is not a smoothly round ball, so it has features that stick out or caves in--that's form. Her eye socket will cave in, and her brow ridge will stick out, causing a shadow--that's what the dark area is. Light and shadow seen on objects is determined by not just the lighting, but the actual form of the object. Also, lighting has direction, and you are only thinking of one very specific situation, which is side-lighting. So what happens if the light is in front of her? Or 3/4 angle in front of her to the side? Or above her? Under her? What if there are two or three different light sources in the scene, all coming from different directions? This is a very basic concept. In week three of my workshop, I go into insane detail about hard and soft lighting, hard and soft shadows, dynamic range, values, the behavior of form and cast shadows, multiple light sources, bounced ambient light, how multiple light sources cancel out each other shadows, light fall off, reflective and specular highlights vs. diffused illuminated surfaces, what determines the color of shadows, and so on.

Last edited by Lunatique : 03 March 2011 at 09:37 AM.
  03 March 2011
Smile hmmm

Hello Robert,

yes.... I see what you are saying.. it totally makes fact I just figured out is the fact that a face has several basic forms - or like already shown in Ron's tutorial, that a face is based on different basic shapes, like a sphere, cones, and so on.

I also learned each object has it's own values - I didn't recognize that before.

A good understanding gave me that image:

There is just one light source - but fact is that the little cube on the left side has different values than the large cube on the right side. This was leading me away from the thinking that each object should have the same values.

Of course it could happen as well, if the light source would be large enough and cover all objects with a very solid light source, it may happen.

Regarding your workshop:
Ohh yes, I would love to participate. But I always struggle with the time, I don't know how I can find it. I do have a fulltime job, and besides that a family with kids. There isn't much time left, and so I only can grab a pencil when I get a chance for it.

Unfortunately I can't make so much progress, and of course it's hard to discuss topics like that through a forum, but it's the only thing I do have right now.

Maybe there is chance to create a sub forum for Beginners or starters following lessons you mentioned earlier.... so beginner would have some kind of guideline or directory to learn and study when ever time allows.

Thank you so much !
  03 March 2011
Just to let you know, I have plenty of students who have full-time jobs and family. One thing that's very special about my workshop that's totally different from other workshops is that there's no deadline for anything, including the assignments. Once you are a student of mine, you are a student for life, until one day you don't need my help anymore. I will always give you critique and answer your questions when you need it, no matter how long it has been since the workshop's official ending date. You can post assignments for critique long after the workshop has ended, and I'll still help you. I make this promise to all of my students, because I really do care if they learn and improve, and I understand they all have busy lives that could get in the way of having enough time to learn and grow. I'd much rather they learn slower over time, instead of simply giving up because life got in the way.
  03 March 2011
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