Value in art

Value in art is something I pay close attention to, especially when sketching wildlife in my sketchbook.

It's all about the lightness or darkness of a color, and it plays a crucial role in creating depth, contrast, and the illusion of three-dimensionality in my artwork. For me, value is fundamental in showing mood, emphasizing focal points, and building a sense of realism.

It's a key element that allows me to depict the intricate forms and textures of animals in a way that feels alive and dynamic.

Key points

  1. Value defines realism and mood: Utilizing light and dark shades allows me to craft sketches with remarkable depth and realism, setting the emotional tone of each piece.
  2. Shading techniques bring sketches to life: By adjusting my pencil's pressure and employing layering methods, I can mimic the natural gradients seen in wildlife, giving form and volume to my subjects on a flat page.
  3. Monochrome sketching sharpens skills: Challenging myself with grayscale sketches not only refines my focus on value but also underlines its essential role in depicting form and texture, even without color.

How I incorporate value in my wildlife sketches

  1. Determining the light source: The first step in my shading process is deciding where the light in my scene is coming from. This decision is crucial because it informs me which parts of my subject will be highlighted and which will fall into shadow, adding cohesion and realism to my sketch.
  2. Building depth with shading: I use different pencil pressures and layering techniques to create a range of values that mimic natural gradients. This approach helps me give form and volume to animals on the flat surface of my sketchbook, using lighter values for lit areas and darker ones for shadows.
  3. Bringing textures to life: The value changes are also key in realistically portraying textures. Whether it's the soft fur of a mammal, the rough scales of a reptile, or the delicate feathers of a bird, I replicate the light and dark patterns of these textures to make them feel tangible.
  4. Enhancing composition: In broader scenes, I rely on value to direct the viewer's attention to the main subject. By creating a stark contrast in values between the subject and its background, I ensure that the focal point stands out.
  5. Exploring with monochrome: Sometimes, I challenge myself with grayscale sketches, which push me to focus intensely on value. This practice not only hones my skills but also underscores the importance of value in defining form and space, even in the absence of color.

Value as my storytelling medium

More than a technical skill, I see value as a storytelling medium.

The atmosphere of a piece can shift dramatically based on the range of values I choose. Darker values might suggest mystery or tension, while lighter values can create a sense of openness and peace.

Through careful application of value, I aim to communicate specific emotions and narratives, inviting viewers to engage more deeply with my work.

Mastering value in wildlife sketching

Understanding the elements of art has been key in my development as a wildlife artist. Among these elements, value stands out as a key player in bringing depth, realism, and emotion to my sketches. It transcends mere lightness or darkness to embody the essence of my subjects, enhancing their form, texture, and overall presence on the page.

How I use value in my drawings

1. Finding the light and shadows

First, I decide where the light in my picture is coming from. This helps me figure out which parts of the animal will be bright and which parts will be dark. It's like imagining the sun shining on the animal and seeing where the shadows fall.

2. Making things look 3D

By changing how hard I press my pencil, I can make different shades of light and dark. This helps me show the roundness of an animal's body or the fluffiness of its fur. It’s like when you see a ball—it looks round because one side is lighter (where the light hits it) and the other side is darker (where the shadow is).

3. Showing different textures

The way I use light and dark also helps me show what the animal's skin or fur feels like. For example, I use lighter and darker shades to make a tiger’s fur look soft and stripey. It’s about noticing how light makes different patterns on the animal.

Making my sketches stand out

I use light and dark to help make the most important part of my drawing catch your eye. Maybe I want you to look at the lion’s face first, so I make it lighter than the rest. It's like when you take a photo and the person’s face is the brightest part, so you look there first.

Sometimes, I only use black, white, and grey in my drawings. This challenges me to really pay attention to the light and dark parts, which makes my drawings even better. It’s like watching an old movie without color but still seeing all the action and drama.

Value tells a story

Using different shades of light and dark in my drawings doesn’t just make them look real; it also helps me tell a story. Maybe I want you to feel calm when you look at my drawing of a macaw, so I use soft, light shades. Or I want you to feel the mystery of the night with my drawing of an owl, so I use a lot of dark shades.

Paying attention to light and dark makes my wildlife drawings come to life. It shows you not just what the animal looks like, but also how it feels and the story I want to tell.

Whether I’m drawing with lots of colors or just in black and white, thinking about value is one of the most important parts of my art.