I snapped these lovely Irises last year, and thought that they would make a good subject for a painting. The light and shadow patterns are super, but the composition needs some imagining. Perfect fodder for the floral unit my advanced watermedia class is doing.
We have covered value studies before, but this time I had them paint, rather than draw them. Each person was to cover their support with a middle gray. Then they were to put in the white gouache and black paint to develop the composition, moving back and forth until a satisfactory composition is found. It is a great exercise that forces you to ensure that values are linked, and puts more pressure on the design than on the objects in the design. You can see I took a lot of liberties with the photo. The tricky part is to only keep to 3 values, so parts of the flower that are in middle value would be the same middle gray as the background, creating a linkage from the flower to the ground. Very different way to use your brain.
Then we did colour studies from our black and whites. To be successful at this part, you have to remember the other biggies: contrasts of saturation (bright against dull) and colour temperatures (warm against cool), as well as use of complementary colours. After the chosen colours are blocked in with hard edges, as in the B&W, some edges are chosen to be softened to create transitions between value shapes. You can have some of the different values in the larger value shapes, as long as the shape remains dominantly the value you have chosen. These studies are only 4x6", so there isn't a lot of room to play around! It is fun to then work from the B&W to make the painting any colour you chose -another way to get past using the photo as a direct reference, allowing your creativity to come into play. We then painted 22x30" works from the two studies. I will post mine tomorrow.