From Practice . . . To Discovery . . . To Skill

Have you ever heard the story about a woman that cooks the most fabulous roast dinner every Sunday night? She starts out by cutting both ends off the roast, places it in the roasting pan, then into a low oven for a few hours. Comes out perfect every time. One day, she was asked, “why do you cut the ends of the roast off before putting it in the pan”? She replied, “because that’s how my mom always did!”

Is that how you do your art? The way someone else does. Or do you think about the process and realize that there might be other ways to approach it? Our art process can be very much like that of the cook above. There was no reason to have to cut off the ends of the roast, it fit just fine in her pan intact! Quite often you don’t have to have the exact class supplies or do things in the same order to still create a successful class project.

I know that I tend to put my art instructors on a pedestal. I respect them for their talent and the fact they share what they know with me so that I too can grow my art skills and realize the joy that one can get from the process. But in doing so I can fall into a trap that stunts my growth.

You see, I’ve come to the point in my art expedition to realize that there is this point where you go from knowing how to color something to understanding what you are coloring. Sounds a bit confusing doesn’t it. But if you think back to a time when you were learning to ride a bicycle, remember how scary it was. You probably had training wheels, then you might have had a parent that would hold on once the training wheels came off. Then you did it, you were balancing and moving forward all on your own. Though it was so long ago, I suspect I was a bit wobbly for a long time. Especially when starting and stopping. Oh, I can remember some of those feelings just thinking about it. But today, I can ride my Vespa without any thought. It’s all natural to me now because I rode my bike day after day, month after month, year after year.

In the beginning of my coloring experience, I relied solely on classes for all my learning. I would listen to everything the teacher said, I would read the materials, I would watch the videos. Then I would pick up a Copic marker and the anxiety would start. But I made it through because I had a teacher, instructions, and videos. I could go back and forth until I made it through the project.

But did I learn anything? I thought I did. But today, I learned I didn’t learn as much as I thought I had. Instead, I am prone to trusting everything an instructor tells me as absolutes for creating my art (a personality flaw I know).

This month, The Practice Corner focus is on a component of color theory, value. That means for me personally, I’ve spent a great deal of time creating value scales for colored pencils and Copic markers. I really enjoyed creating the colored pencil value scales, but not so much the Copic scales. But when a member of the Practice Corner Community posted a drill sheet with her value scales and observations, I was blinded by the lightbulb that it turned on in my head. Oh my, my understanding of the Copic marker numbers as it related to the value scale used by artist was totally wrong. How do I know this? Because I went back and experimented with my markers to prove my understanding was correct to only find out I was wrong.

Somewhere along the way I learned that the last digit of a Copic marker represents the value (light/dark) of the marker and that any marker ending in the same number had the same value. So, if you colored an entire image with a collection of markers ending in “4” for example, when you convert the drawing to black and white it will look as it will look as if it was all colored with the same marker.

After swatching all my markers that ended in “9” and converting the swatches to black and white, I saw the light. Using my marker number to identify the value of a color is like comparing apples to oranges. What I could see now is that the markers themselves (just like colored pencils) have a maximum value. Once I determined that I was able lower the value of the marker with the addition of neutral markers to create a more complete value scale for a Copic marker family.

Today's practice (experiment) taught me a few important lessons. First, just because I read or hear something about the coloring process doesn't mean I fully understand the implications. It was taking the time to put my markers through the paces of finding their values did I realize that I can't rely on the marker number to tell me where it will land on the Gray Scale & Value Finder. I also learned that when I color in the future and I am in a situation where I need a lower value of a hue than my Copic marker family has I can create it. Another benefit of all this practice of creating value scales is that I'm starting to recognize the base hue of low value colors. But the biggest payoff is that I don’t have to go back and check a video or read an old tutorial to try to figure out what value means and how to see it, I now own this skill.

These are moments in my coloring that excite me. When the lightbulb goes on, I know that the next time I am working on a project, I have one more thing I can do without even thinking about it. That said, I think it’s time I go color . . .

What's happening in the Corner . . .

Did you make a New Year's resolution to put coloring back into your life? But now you aren't sure where to start? Why not join with fellow colorers as we focus our attention on creating more realism in our projects as we put the "value" of color into our practice as we start the new year.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Value here.

You can see more of my work or follow me on Instagram.

Follow the Practice Corner on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for more inspiring stories and tips to help you keep practicing and finding new joys through your coloring.

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