All images shown are copyright Dan D'Amico and may not be used for any purpose without his written permission.
In art, the term values refers to the relative lightness or darkness of an object in your drawing or painting. In nature, there is a very wide range from light to dark, much wider than we are capable of reproducing in our art. As the interpreter of the natural world, the artist must make choices on relative values based on the limited range available with our paint, graphite, ink, etc.
By manipulating the values in your artworks, you can create various moods, focus the viewers eye, and create movement. Evaluating and interpreting values in one of the most important and expressive tools we have.
The overall value structure in this painting is limited to middle and high values, to reduce contrast and reinforce the feeling of a cold, snowy, isolated landscape.
This painting is full of contrast. The middle values behind the moose help the light and dark values on the moose stand out. The high contrast between the sunlit slopes in the background and reflections in the water, and the trees in shadow help to convey a feeling of a crisp, clear morning.
Notice how the values get lighter as they recede into the distance. This is called atmospheric perspective, and it occurs because of moisture and dust particles in the air. A very useful tool for creating space in your art.
In contrast to the snowy painting at the top of this page, this landscape uses middle to dark values to create a feeling of dusk. It also relies on atmospheric perspective to create distance, and light/dark contrast in the foreground to create movement into the landscape.
In this painting I needed to create separation between the owl and the background. I made the background values much lighter and less contrasty than they were in life, thereby allowing the darker and more contrasty foreground to be featured.
In this painting, rather than make the owl stand out, I wanted to show how they blend into their environment.