Before I get too far on my drawing, I like to pause and do a black-and-white study. After mixing 9 values of paint, I tape tracing paper over the drawing, so that I can use the drawing as a guide. My goal is to do a very loose study, to better judge the composition without the distraction of color.

At first, it’s very hard to judge the correct values. Once more paint is down, and I can make comparisons, it’ll become simpler. For now, I take my best guess. When I’m not sure of a value, I find it helpful to isolate the bit that I’m looking at by making a little window with my curled thumb and forefinger. I view the set-up through this window. I then make a similar window with my other hand, through which to view the same place on the painting. I can look at these two windows at the same time, to compare the value of the bit I’m trying to paint. Seeing the two at the same time, isolated from their surroundings, makes seeing so much easier.

I don’t worry about detail. I just need the big shapes to see the composition. It’s amazing how dark black velvet is!

In the painting of the earring, above, you can see how loose the painting is.

After getting most of the paper covered, above, I took a break. When the paint is wet, it’s hard to get crisp touches without everything blending together. After the paint is dry, in a week or so, I can start correcting the values.

I took the photo above, after I re-worked some of the areas a week later. The photo is a bit over-exposed, but you can see that some areas have been adjusted and many shadow areas darkened.

One challenge is that this set-up is near a south window, because I wanted to let in some cool daylight to contrast with my warm spotlight. It looks very different on a rainy day and on a sunny one! Once I get painting, I’ll decide which look I prefer, and do subtle value and color observation on just one kind of day.