Chris Legaspi concludes his excellent series on life drawing by explaining why value composition is a powerful tool for capturing the viewer’s attention
Learn about value composition
Value composition draws the eyes to an image, because it’s the first read the mind makes. Once I have the viewer’s attention, I can use composition tricks to maintain their gaze.
I begin a value composition by limiting the values I use to two or three. This creates clear shapes and a powerful, twodimensional graphic read. Then I’ll work with value keys. These refer to the range of values on a value spectrum. For example, low key uses mostly dark values, and high key is mostly light values. Low key creates a dark and mysterious mood, while high key feels lighter and softer.
My next step is to simplify either the shadow or the light side. If both sides receive equal attention, then the painting will feel flat. To draw attention to the light side, I’ll simplify the shadow by grouping the darks and ignoring variation in the darks. If they’re needed later then I can always bring out details in the shadow.
Once my shapes and edges have been rendered and refined, and the painting is nearly complete, I’ll add the last touches of detail on the focal points of the image. I’ll add highlights or anything that adds contrast at the focal points along with more refined edges. Finally, I’ll use design elements to draw the eye to a particular focal point and then move the eye around the canvas.
Chris is keen to share his extensive knowledge of figure drawing and painting. See more of his work and drawing advice at www.learn-howtodraw.com.