I just took a Peggi Kroll Roberts workshop and this post is about our favorite exercise, an exercise intended to prove the importance of value… an exercise based on the concept of notan.
[To see the definition of both value and notan, visit the Artful Definition page.]
For some background information, the three day workshop was figurative with one day of still life and the other two devoted to the human figure. I was very excited to attend because figurative workshops are somewhat rare and because I really like Peggi’s beautiful simplified figures.
Value is one of the essential tools of the representational artist. And Peggi’s exercise demonstrated this point superbly. In it, we were to paint the human figure from life in 20 minutes using only two colors, one dark and one light. We would use the dark color to paint everything in shadow and the light color to paint everything that was lit.
We could paint with any two colors we wanted as long as one was much darker than the other. This made it fun. We had only one decision to make: what was in shadow and what was in light. This made it easy… which of course, made it more fun!
At the end of the 20 minutes, we all had paintings that “read” (i.e. paintings of totally recognizable subjects even though stripped both of detail and of realistic color). It was visual proof of the preeminence of value over color. The color absolutely didn’t matter; the values absolutely did!