Gray days call for paintings with a limited value range, usually falling in the middle with no bright lights and no deep darks.  Sunny days demand the full range of values from the lightest light to the darkest dark.

narrow range vs. wide range

When approaching any painting, whether landscape, still life or figure, I’m beginning to ask myself if I want to create gray day atmosphere or sunny day atmosphere.  Asking myself that question demands that I choose my range of values from the very beginning.  I find that knowing my range allows me to paint more directly and more efficiently, achieving an expression of mood more successfully and with cleaner color.  Less layering is required when I’ve decided ahead of time how light my lightest light will be and how dark my darkest dark will be.

Grayscale mode of trumpet parts

After completing the limited value range painting on the left I wanted to try expanding the value range.  I knew that I could use a more saturated mixture of yellow without dropping too far down the value scale.  The intrinsic value of yellow is quite high.  The intrinsic value of purple is quite low.  I know that when I use a more saturated mixture of purple the value of the purple shapes will drop drastically on the value scale and I will get a strong contrast happening between the yellow and the purple.

Notice that the when yellow approaches orange, the value drops a bit more, coming close to the value of blue behind it. The blue in the painting on the right is a darker value than the blue in the painting on the left, but is still not as saturated as the purple, allowing the blue to fall in the middle range of the value scale.  It is the darker value of the purple that stretches the value range.

From across the room, the shapes in the painting on the right stand on their own as abstract shapes.  The shapes in the painting on the left merge into the background.  It is up to lines to describe the shapes as trumpet parts.  Color often camouflages the strengths and weaknesses of a painting.

Drawn first with ink in a flex roller ball pen, followed by washes of watercolor.