Studies are those little paintings and/or drawings that artists make to prepare for a more finished and usually larger work. They're useful to figure out values, juggle composition and plan color palettes. They have a lot in common with homework. But most painters find them much more fun than their teenage attempts to solve for "x" in algebra.
I had a revelation about my studies a few months ago. Mine are not about capturing the exact color of what I see. They are about creating color harmonies. Because I tend to push color, I risk discordant colors and values. A study helps me avoid that. Sometimes it helps by showing me what not to do in the larger painting.
As you can see from the above twosome, it also helps me refine my composition. And as I see in looking at this post, the colors seem quite different between the two. The colors in the larger are actually very much like those in the study; unfortunately, my camera wouldn't see it that way.
To see some lovely value studies, visit Laurel Daniel's blog and while there, browse around to look at more of her work as well.
Lonesome Dove (above) is of a Tennessee Land Trust property and will be auctioned at the Blue Moon gala held in Nashville each year to promote and fund the work of that organization. It's a 9x12 oil; its study is 5x7.