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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > May-17 > Value and chiaroscuro

Value and chiaroscuro

Martin Kinnear begins a new series aimed at practising and improving oil painters. This month he explains the importance of value and chiaroscuro


Let’s imagine you are one of my students and have asked me for advice about your painting. How can you make it stronger? Should you be trying to emulate the Old Masters by glazing? Which rules could you use when choosing and using colours? Is it OK to use your iPad or camera as part of your process? How do I make bits of my paintings seem to recede? I’ll answer all these questions in this series of five articles, starting with the most important one.

The truth about value

Most art schools place a huge emphasis on working in monochrome, and of course historically all art students were taught to use black and white before colour; but is that a tradition that you should emulate?

In fact over two thirds of the brain’s visual processing is devoted to seeing in black and white. For this reason it’s quite possible to create strong images without colour, and equally possible that colourful images will be weak if they are deficient in value.

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About The Artist

Follow cover artist Henrietta Graham's example and set yourself a challenging project to create a series of paintings on a particular subject matter, or why not try something different from your usual practice to keep your creativity flowing? Our professional artist/tutors offer plenty of ideas this month, from how to paint loose watercolour landscapes by Lea Nixon, unusual compositions from a high viewpoint by Jo Quigley, and how to use pattern to dramatic effect in your still lifes by Penny German. Hazel Soan demonstrates how to paint a lively self-portrait in watercolour, Glyn Macey shows what you can discover by studying Rauschenberg's work and techniques plus we include articles on understanding the structure of the head and how to measure and see more objectively to help improve your figure work. Oil painters will love Martin Kinnear's new series on oil techniques, starting with the importance of value and chiaroscuro, while Charles Williams takes a thought-provoking look at the age-old issue of 'when is a painting finished?' With more besides, you won't be short of inspiration and helpful advice in this month's issue!