Creative KickStart: Designing With Value

Thomas Schaller plays with value to establish mood, perspective and a sense of place

Thomas Schaller watercolor landscape design
Thomas Schaller's value sketches

“To establish a sense of depth and perspective in a painting, I design in a range of three basic values (light, dark, and mid-tone),” says Thomas Schaller. “I assign one of these values to take dominance and place it in the foreground, mid-ground, and background of my painting. In the final diagram, I placed both the lightest lights and darkest darks in the mid-ground — allowing the foreground and background to be largely mid-tones. In each of the diagrams, the content is exactly the same, but the sense of place, mood, and narrative can shift widely depending on how the values are designed.”


Thomas W. Schaller is an award-winning artist and architect based in Los Angeles. Collected world-wide, his work is part of a number of permanent collections and has been featured in a great many books, magazines, and arts publications. A Signature Member of American Watercolor Society and many other professional arts organizations, he was recently elected Artist Member of the California Art Club and the Salmagundi Art Club, NYC. He is president emeritus of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators and a founding member of North American Watercolor Artists.


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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.



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