Mastering the Middle Values David Rankin's unique Watercolor Vision

The artists of the 1800's didn't have all the digital imaging technologies we have today. They had to rely on their artistic observations & evaluations.
Even so... they were able to create amazing paintings with believable space & depth. And they did it by mastering the Middle Values of their paintings.

Artists like John Singer Sargent could create magical masterpieces of light & form with just the Middle Values!

Long before artists had the use of all of these amazing digital imaging technologies... they learned how to study & evaluate painting subjects. They learned how to identify and utilize correct color values. And they created masterful works of art using their eyes & evaluation skills as they observed their subjects.

The initial process in developing better values in your paintings requires a precise focus on a couple of crucial skills... the ability to visually identify the darkest dark features in any subject... followed by the whitest... lightest... brightest features.

Once you've studied your subject... looking for the darkest darks and then... the lightest lights... everything else falls somewhere into the middle values.

And... you'll clearly begin to understand how we tend to use middle value colors to paint about 75% of our paintings! Therefore... if indeed you are trying to improve the quality of your paintings... you'll find the fastest route right there in your middle values! The darkest dark brushwork you put into a painting is indeed crucial. But as you can see below... paintings with just darkest dark brushwork don't work very well. Look at what happens when I separate the darkest brushwork... from the middle values.

The darkest dark brushwork and the lightest, whitest, brightest highlights... are the stars of our paintings. However... it's the overall middle values that set the stage and establish the overall mood by providing the eye with a natural continuity between the darks & the lights. Without the middle values, as seen above, there is no emotion. The mood is lost in stark contrast.

I created this graphic to help artists identify values better.

This first set of squares contain 2 darks... what I refer to as a... Near-Darkest Dark... and a True Darkest Dark. This single distinction between how dark the darks are... in a subject... becomes extremely important when you see how I use this concept as I paint. This single concept... when applied during the painting process... can indeed make Transparent Watercolors much easier... and... much better.

Here for instance is one of my plein air paintings where I used both Near-Darkest Darks... plus some Darkest Darks... along with the Middle Values... in order to create very dramatic contrasts. A bright fall morning light is then captured along with the intense middle valued colors of fall trees. The Darks... both Near-Darkest as well as the Darkest values provide what I call the Anchor Values in any painting. We need the Darkest Darks to create the full range of values. The Whitest... Lightest... Brightest brushwork... the Lightest Values in any painting... then provides what I call... the Dazzle! But it's the Middle Values that tie the two together and provide the contrast and the mood! We need all 3 values to create the magic.

Now let us consider this stunning painting below... by Arthur Wardle (1864-1949). Given what I was just pointing out in the previous painting... can you now see how this painting is in fact about 60% Middle Valued Colors. And the artist used both Near-Darkest Darks and Darkest Darks on either side to close off the distance and force our eyes out front into the dramatic focal point in the foreground struggle between the snake and the leopard.

And it's out here in the focal point where the artist placed the very lightest whites and brightest colors! But look carefully. There are indeed light values on either side of the snake's head... but Wardle's masterful skills carefully placed the actual Whitest Whites just to the left of the snake's body... up onto the face and legs of the leopard. Our gaze is then drawn precisely to where Wardle wanted us to focus.

That's why it's called ART!

David Rankin
Come on down to Texas this may and I'll help you master the emotion of the middle values in your paintings. This is going to be a fabulous week of world class training with a lot of wonderful instructors and a whole lot of other talented artists. Click the link below and check out all the details, prices, and other instructors. Hope to see you at TexArt in May!
Created By
TexArt Workshop Texas in May 2016

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