Value Study Tools

All my value study tools.

Recently, I was talking with a fellow artist about some of my art goals. One involves creating more dramatic compositions. She asked, “What’s your plan?”


A few prismacolor value studies.

All I could think was: to create stronger compositions. But what she was asking was, how will you get to the end result without a lot of time spent wandering around aimlessly in the woods, so to speak? I’m thankful that this amazing artist, Lyn Boyer, sat me down and helped me come up with a plan.

I had recently started to take my thumbnail sketches and value studies more seriously, in an effort to produce those more dramatic compositions. But I was still pretty “loosey-goosey” about the whole thing.


These studies are called notans. They let you test the strength of your compositions. It’s worth Googling if your interested in trying this out.

She introduced me to grayscale prismacolor markers. Using the markers instead of graphite makes you more “painterly” about the whole thing, and keeps you thinking only of shapes and value. It’s the foundation of every painting, and I’ve come to look at these value studies as my road map — without which, I would become lost.

The other goal was to do a value study for every single painting I do, to prevent me from wandering and ensuring I have a map of exactly where I want to go.

It’s all a journey, but this new way of working is very comforting to me right now. It’s working, and when something works, you want to share it with the world.

Click here to read one of Lyn’s awesome blogs about learning.

What’s your plan? What goals are you working on, and how do you plan to get there?

I always look forward to hearing from you here, and on Facebook and Instagram. See you there!