Two Gray Hills
oil on board
One of the concepts that Johannes has been emphasizing in his workshops is to focus on values. He repeated the quote I've heard before: "Value does the work and color gets the credit". So true! And it's so easy to seduced by warm, high-chroma colors and misinterpret their values as being lighter than they truly are.
Everyone who paints landscapes is familiar with value planes and probably most of us have read or are at least familiar with John Carson's landscape painting guide. In it, he discusses the four basic planes of light:
- 1 - sky, which is always the lightest value, save for snow - usually 2-3 on the value scale
- 2 - slanted plane: ie, mountains - usually 5-6 on the value scale
- 3 - upright plane: ie, trees - usually 4-7 on the value scale, with 8 for darkest shadow areas
- 4 - flat plane: ground - usually 4, maybe 3 or 5.
While painting this piece, I was mindful of that. I have had a tendency in the past to make the undersides of rain-laden clouds too dark. Even as dark as they appear to be, seldom are they ever darker than the lightest value of the land. This is easily verified by converting a photo to b/w.
The only exception I've personally seen is in a scenario similar to the one above: a deep, deep blue sky at the zenith, and a solid blanket of pale faded grasses in the winter. Or, dark stormclouds behind a front-lit hill, cliff or mountain of pale rock, where the light is hitting the surface close to 90 degrees.
Out of curiosity and edification, I converted the painting and the reference photo to b/w. And while I was correct about the sky and grass value, it turns out my grasses are still about one value too light. The darkest darks of the clouds were only slightly darker than the lightest lights of the grasses.
It's probably time to re-read Carson for probably the 3rd time...