Value in composition

Values is a term in art that describes how light or dark something is. It refers to the grayscale value of a color.

How light or dark something is is one of the primary ways our visual system analyzes the visual world around us. It’s how we recognize something as a shape or an outline and it clues us to understand it as an entity.

In visual art it is a primary tool to emphasize and de-emphasize elements in a work of art. More specifically than value, it is the contrast that is used to make something stand out or disappear. When you start paying attention to how it is used in art, some of those lovely paintings and the way they were composed starts seeming very deliberate and not so random. It is not just that an artist gets an inspiration and an idea of what they want to paint, it is also that they then spend time composing the values of the picture to make the theme or subject of their painting stand out. So much so that in some cases it can almost seem shamelessly composed, yet seem entirely coincidental, unintended and realistic. Continue reading

Invented Dancer figure

'Dancing Through Fire'

8”X11” Graphite on Paper. I named this one ‘Dancing through Fire’. I started it while listening to the lyrics of a song I heard on the radio earlier that day. It was a pop song about self-empowerment, but the visual image of a dancer dancing amidst flames ignited my imagination and I grabbed my sketchbook and drew a sketch of how such figure might be.

Her body posture must reflect the nature of the flames; a wild, selfish, free force reaching up for oxygen but grounded to the ground where it begins.

It needed to be uninhibited and in full force of motion.
When I was done with the figure I added shackles, which I did not initially have in mind. The pose seemed powerful and she needed to be grounded, like the flames. A powerful force ignoring its external bonds.

It stands in my mind as a symbol of life amidst difficulties; a dance as a response to shackles, saying that one’s spirit cannot be bound.

I started with the gesture, then general volumes, then anatomy and lastly all the values (the lights and darks) had to be figured out. That was the most challenging part, to imagine a light source and how this light source would influence a figure, how to arrange it all to make the figure stand out and still allow it to have dimensionality (rather than being 2 dimensional).

It was a difficult mental exercise but satisfying nonetheless.

Passion for Anatomy


Anatomy has been a delightful pursuit for the last year since my graduation from Georgetown Atelier.

I am so enamoured with it; the human body, the biological machine, an absolute beauty; sophisticated and elegant, powerful and capable of executing our will as well as express our emotions. As social beings our bodies and minds have tremendous power to communicate and perceive our mood and character.

Every artist who studies anatomy does it for a slightly different reason, I believe. Continue reading

Tree Drawings

I had a fun day going out drawing with my new watercolor sticks and a black fountain pen, sitting in the street on the sidewalk and drawing trees.

It was a fun to walk going around “hunting” for a special tree I find appealing and a way to experience an otherwise somewhat familiar neighborhood through new eyes of adventure.

What sent me on this trip to begin with was my interest in harmony of lines, in patterns – and plants are the perfect subject matter for that.

They have the same blueprint yet every leaf and branch grows differently according to its surrounding, and together they form a structure that has similar patterns and sense of movement, yet the branches and leafs are different from one another, and each plant has a different pattern than the rest. It’s random yet structured. I find them really pretty.

Study of Local values

I came across this excellent local-value study by teaching artist Melissa Weinman (website).

She drew 3 balls which she colored white, gray and black with acrylic paint, placing them under the exact same lighting conditions. The image bellow was the result.

The most important and interesting deductive use I found for this is for skin values in people and how different colored-skin individuals would appear under the same light. Continue reading

Leaves on Translucent background

I did this small study of leaves for an art event this month.

I really enjoyed trying out something new; I use mineral spirit as a medium without using any oil or gel to make the paint flow. The result is that the paint becomes much like watercolor while still allowing thicker areas where mineral spirit is not used.

The nice thing about this is that it is possible to get very bright and very chromatic at the same time Continue reading

New Studio Assistant!

Hi all. I’d like you to meet my newly hired studio assistant, Ralph. My go-to guy for abstract art and general help for rough painting days. Patty The Painting Donkey(Picture credit: Adam Harnett / CATERS NEWS)

Some days… no matter how hard you try, paintings just don’t come out right. And that’s when you call Ralph to the rescue.

Available for hire; please contact me for rates and times.

Visual Principles vs. sheer Observation in Art making

Figure Construction As an art student you will often hear the idea that the artist must learn to ignore what “they think they see” about their subject matter in order to actually see it as it is. That in our mind, there is an abstract visual symbol of different things (such as the shape of the head) and that we need to learn to ignore it in order to observe what is actually there.

There is some truth to that, and some falsehood as well.

As humans, there is only so much information we can hold in our mind at any given point. Principles and generalization help us to quickly understand a situation rather than analyze it as if we are encountering everything about it for the very first time. Continue reading

Conclusion of Summer outdoor Painting

Forest Trail

Forest Trail, Oil on Canvas 11”X 15”

This summer I had the luxury of going outside and painting. It was relatively a new experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot.

Sometimes I would go by myself and sit in a forest for hours, painting, and sometimes go with a friend and do short studies of things.

At the beginning:

Forest Trail Beginning
A couple of small, single sitting studies:

Water Lillies, Study  Thyme for soup
It’s been a lovely summer. I hope I will get more opportunities for outdoor painting now that the summer is pretty much over here in Seattle.