Skip navigation

  Value Sketch

The evening of the first day of the workshop, I sat down and did my pre-sketch of a donkey for the next day. I also drew a line drawing of her on watercolor paper so that I would have something to start working on the second day of the workshop. Don spent the morning talking about granular washes and demonstrated how he paints them. He said these can be done with any name brand of watercolors. He spoke of specific colors and divided them up into three groups of light, medium and dark colors. I learned how important it was to know which colors are light , medium and dark. I had always found a color I liked and added more water if I wanted it to be lighter. In essence, what I was doing is really saturating that color and not allowing it to be what it was designed for which was to be  a dark. Sounds like a “no-brainer” but I had never connected with this before. I am going to have to spend some time with my colors, now, and decide which ones fit into which values because I like this way of thinking and painting.  He showed us different color combinations and how to turn our paintings on with the midtones. He also talked about different kinds of contrasts to include in our paintings.  The whole time we should be thinking of  contrasts of neutrals and colors, lights and darks, lost edges and hard edges and finding places for all of it.

Following the demonstration and discussion, I decided I needed to work out some granular washes on a separate sheet of paper. I chose the colors I thought I might use to paint my donkey so I could see how they mixed. Here are the washes I tried:

   Neutrals  Colors

Then I painted my donkey, below:

I hope I can remember all of this as I continue painting. It is my new goal.


  1. I love the colors in this painting, Leslie. I just took some photos of donkeys on my recent trip to the zoo and was thinking they would be great subjects for a painting, so it was fun to see your post today! And as always, you’ve shared some great insights that I’ll have to think about now with my own painting. Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge and experience!

    • It really made a difference to wet areas down with a light color and then swoop in some other color while it was wet. I knew about mixing colors together on the paper, but I didn’t use as much water. I didn’t divide them into light, medium and darks and I didn’t turn the board this way and that allowing the paint to mingle. Thank-you, Laurie. I want you to paint your rhinocerouses 🙂

      Then share?

      • Leslie, I have been thinking about painting those rhinos and since you’ve mentioned it here, maybe I’ll give it a try. 🙂 I’ll let you know how it goes!

      • I just think that they are so unique that you could paint them any color and any style you want! I was fascinated by the clarity of the image and the contrasts in subject material as well as value and texture. HAVE FUN!

    • The colors in the Donkey painting are wonderful. The purple works great with the yellow green of the background and create a nice vibrant look. Also I wanted to thank you for compliment you left me on Wine and Skulls II. I will be checking back in with your site.

      • Hi Kristin! Thank-you for the comment on the donkey. I really enjoyed viewing the work on your site. I will be following you, also.

  2. I really like how the colors blend in this painting. The soft, muted background makes the donkey really stand out.

    • Thank-you, Jackie! Those are the granular washes that he demonstrates. The fun thing about it is that it doesn’t take long to learn.

  3. Leslie,
    I am thrilled with your glowing color! I, too, used water to alter the value of a color rather than use color full strength, choosing it for its natural value (at full strength) as well as its hue. Several months ago I made value charts using every single tube of (oil) paint I had. I was amazed at where some of the colors fell on the value charts. I made three charts, one that placed all of the colors along a ten value scale, one along a seven value scale and one along a five value scale. As soon as I am up and about a bit better, I’m going to create a three value scale with all of my watercolor hues. The exercise changed the way I see everything. It looks as if your workshop with Don Andrews has done the same for you! How exciting.
    Here is a link to my other blog where I talk more about the color charts I made. I don’t know if it will be useful to you or not, but thought you might get a kick out of taking a look.

    • I know!!!! Why didn’t we think of that????
      What caught my eye the most is that he would take this light wash of something like manganese blue(which is a light) and paint the whole painting really fast EXCEPT the Whites. He said that is so we could see the white area. Of course that first wash dries real light as we all know, duh.After that, he takes more care as he begins the larger granular washes and begins to tilt his board this way and that. Amazing! Yes. He changed the way I see and he gave new meaning to things like washes, pre-drawings, composition. It isn’t so much that he taught anything NEW! He taught what we all knew and made it accessible. Fantastic teacher. Thanks for the link! Glanced at it and I will go back and read!

  4. Oh I wish I could have been a fly on your shoulder! What a great opportunity! I love this painting, Leslie! When I enlarged it, I was fascinated that you even have light on the hardware on his reins! You just ROCK! 🙂

    I am loving my lessons through you. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • I wish you could have just plain been there. You would have gotten this right off with your love of color. You might have to keep a large painting in the works 🙂 so you can enjoy swooping granular washes, also. I am working on a smaller one, now. I had to step down to small flats to do the background washes.

  5. This is a very interesting lesson Leslie! I love these demonstrations – The results are always stunning!

  6. Hi Leslie, You and your value sketch and the colors and you thinking about the colors, etc., etc. and then you paint this beautiful painting of your donkey!! You’ve got it!
    And the more you paint, the more it will become second nature – you won’t forget! Brilliant!! 12 out of 10 for your donkey!

    • Thank-you for this, Jan! You spur me on! I hope this wasn’t beginner’s luck and I can continue to do this. You made my day!

  7. Excuse me! You are not a beginner! 🙂

    • Thanks, Jan. I suppose you are right about that. Sorry. I kind of am a beginner at these granulating washes and some of the things he taught? I guess I meant I hope I can do these again and you just gave me encouragement. LOL Bad choice of words on my part. 🙂

      • And with your passion you will do a lot more! I am sure.

  8. Bellisima!

  9. I agree with Beth. I am getting lessons just reading your posts! Today’s post was a revelation for me. I have always added water to lighten. Wow! Now I want to lay out all my paints and work out value charts like Chris described. This workshop had real value! And I love this painting! You held the white and the colors glow. The eyes are very soulful. Just incredible.

    • I am only giving you the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. See if your local library has his collection of DVDs because his demos are what makes everything click. There are stages and I can not relate all of that, here on my blog. Thank-you for your comment and, yes, I’ve been watering down my darks, also. Are we lazy or what? Chris’s charts are awesome!!!!!

  10. Great Painting. I don’t use a value chart but I understand the concept I use most of my colours with out watering them down. The only problem is I can’t seem to get a gold colour with out watering yellow ochre down. lol

    • Thank-you, Richard. Your watercolors do look like you understand the concept. Painting this way does seem to require more colors, but I like that.

  11. Hi Leslie!

    It’s been a while now, and it’s good to be back. You have posted so many new beautiful images since last time I read your blog, I’m amazed! You are such a talented artist, and I’m enjoying your blog a lot. I’ve got so much catchin up to do! 🙂

    • Hi Camilla! Welcome back! Thank-you for the wonderful comment and for remembering me! I will be over,. as i have checked on you from time-to-time. 🙂

  12. Leslie, Thanks for sharing you work shop experience in detail.. really helps to know these nuances.. I loved the way you did your donkey sketch,( the eyes are sparkling )also the graded washes..the colors look so transparent!

    • Hi Padmaja. Thank-you for the visit and the comment. I had a blast making those washes. When the paper is wet, it doesn’t look like that. When it dries, all that luscious color comes out.

  13. I just amaze on how you archive all those wonderful colors. The donkey just look so lively and full of sunshine, the background is just so smooth and colorful.I always face problem with background especially with multiple colors. You did just right. Yup color charts, read about it but never bother about it, after reading this blog, think i need to get serious about it.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I have always thought your backgrounds to be “spot-on”. I thought color charts to be a waste of time, too, but am thinking I need to know midtones better so I can use them more. I found I was using a lot of watered down darks. I struggle with backgrounds, also. It helped to know that I could lay in a preliminary wash of a very light color and later go back in and wet down the whole surface and feed in the midtones or darks to enhance that background.

  14. This donkey glows! Thanks so much for the info on the paint. I, too, always just add more water to lighten a color. Now I will have to rethink this whole thing.

    I love the colors you used in this painting. Not one muddy shade. And the white on the face is fantastic!

    • I think it is going to take me some time to figure out my midtones and then neutrals that I like, but have some idea of what I have done. I was also infatuated by his talking about contrasting neutrals with color while I work out values and edges. There is a lot to work on that is presented and I am sure it is going to take me forever to get this down, but am determined. Thank-you for the comment about the colors in the donkey, Carol. I have never, ever used so MUCH YELLOW!

  15. Leslie, as everyone else has said, I love the vibrant colors you used! It was really interesting to see your journey on this piece, how it progressed from beginning to end. Who knew a donkey could be so appealing?!

    • Hi Bree!

      Thank-you. I just hope I can keep my colors straight. Supposedly, the colors that fall in the mid value range are the ones that turn on the color. Hope I can do this again. I hope….I hope.

  16. This has me thinking too!

    • I know, Keith. Makes me think and makes me want to try more! Thank-you for the visit and your comment. 🙂

  17. Lovely painting, Lelie and well done for getting to grips with the new technique!

    Despite having been a watercolourist before I turned to digital painting, I’ve never ever been able to grasp colour theory properly! And I have done more classes on it than I can remember! The thing for me is that I use colour instinctively, so what you’re saying makes sense but I can’t put a ‘name’ to it!

    A couple of things that might be of interest (though I don’t know if I can explain them properly). One is that with my digital work, there is are two tools I use to create highlights, midtones and shadows from any colour base. The burn tool darkens, depending on its setting, but on the shadows setting, it also increases the density of the hue, so I use it with care. If I want to get the opposite effect of a wash (in other words the effect one would achieve by not diluting the paint with water, but increasing the density of it by adding a darker colour) I have to de-saturate the colour itself, in other words, remove some of the colour’s vitality and take it back to a partial monotone. With the dodge tool, which has the opposite effect, of lightening rather than darkening in the three tonals’ range (highlights/midtones/shadows) an interesting thing happens that I believe is much the same as you’re discovering with the addition of actual colours rather than diluting a dark colour with water: for instance, if my base colour is a deep red and I apply the dodge tool to it in increments, it become orangey, then yellowy and eventually white! So, in order to achieve that in the system you’ve just learnt, one would apply those colours, not water!

    The other thing is this: there is a way to work ‘washes’ in reverse that I discovered (don’t know if anyone else has done this, probably) and that is to start with thick layers of watercolour on semi-shiny paper or card, wet the brush, dry it slightly and then push it against the paint – away from you. What this achieves is thinning the colour nearest to you, and pooling it in thick lines furthest away. I must try and find one of my old paintings and put it on my blog to show this technique.

    (Apologies for such a long comment. I feel like I’m coming out of hibernation!

    • I think it’s a great comment! Would love to see a painting where you pushed paint! Thank-you! Glad to see you back at the blogging!

  18. Thanks for sharing your tips and techniques. I have been thinking that I need to get back to a class and get some new ideas, tips, and motivation. You’ve shown how helpful it can be. Defintely a must for this fall!

    • Obviously I needed it. Thank-you, Kathleen. I hope whatever you take will be inspiring. I want to say, also, that as different as our two approaches are, I am thankful you visit. I visit Swift River who also enjoys creating abstract art. Her site is:

      I enjoy seeing what you both create.

      • Though I love to create abstract art I love all kinds of artwork. I am so impressed with your work – it is beautiful. I love to view it and hear about how you put things together. And thanks for the tip about swiftriverarts. Defintely and interesting site and a kindred soul.

  19. Love the glowing background which helps frame the donkey! Since I’m a sucker for graphite, I like your initial sketch too!

    • Thanks, Al. I hope I’ll be able to do a background like that again. Lots of water and feeding bright color in. I know what you mean about graphite. When I first learned to draw, I thought that was the BEST! I love looking at other artists’ drawings just to see how they make their marks and put something together. Fascinating.

  20. Hey and WOWOWOW! That was a GREAT JOURNEY to take with You! I was in love with Your sketch….and then to read about all You’re learning….and then to see Your colours and then….Ahhhhhhh! He pops right off the page. There’s wonderful dimension. I LOVE this painting. Thank You for sharing it all. And Thank You also for the advice You gave me on photographing my paintings. That will help me much when I’ve completed it and am ready to try again!!! Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Thank-you, Bliss. Your Avatar keeps changing! I kind of like that, like a new outfit for every visit! Pip Pip and away! 🙂 Loved that story: 🙂

        • blissbait
        • Posted July 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm
        • Permalink

        Hey! I STILL had fun scrolling down, watching the transformation. I’m still in love with Your donkey as well. And honestly….You could frame those two pages where You were experimenting with colour. They are beautiful.

        Yeah….my avatar has turned into a teenage girl who can’t decide what to wear! I’m glad You’re enjoying it! 😆 And THANK YOU for the sweet link and for taking the time for Old Pipper Popper! I’m so happy You liked him! Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

  21. I like the colors in this painting so much, Leslie.
    Great creative work 🙂
    Marinela x

    • Thank-you, Marinela. I think I got carried away with the yellow? 🙂

  22. The feminine beauty of this donkey jumped off the page when I first looked at your value sketch. Even before you said in your comments that it was a “she”, I knew it was. Everything about her – her softly closed mouth, her big, liquid eyes, and her attentively-held ears – says “female”. And then, when you added your newly acquired color knowledge and made your choices from your beautiful granular washes palettes, I felt just like I could reach through the computer screen and actually hug this sweet donkey girl. Your wonderous imagination in posing this little doll in this piece and then bringing her into full, gorgeous donkey reality when you added the color is a call to the world to see donkeys as the kind, gentle, intelligent, and calming creatures that they are for fellow donkeys, fearful horses, and loving owners.

    I, too, saw the soft light on the beautifully thin raw-hide halter, just like Beth Parker did. The light on the halter was yet another part of this picture that made it seem so very real that it called to me to reach out and gently take a hold of the halter, feel the bristly coat of her face against the back of my hand, and lead this little girl along next to me into soft light and quiet happiness.

    All of what I said above hit me because the way that you created this donkey in this picture says she deserves love just like you gave her in this endeavor. Wow. Your work is as remarkable as you are, Leslie.

    • Hi oldest friend in the whole wide world. Thank-you, so much for this lovely comment. You have always been so supportive of all I do. I do need to ask you if you see “Ciara” in this. The whole time I was painting her I thought of that lovely walking horse with the roman nose. 🙂

        • Jill A. England
        • Posted July 10, 2010 at 8:16 am
        • Permalink

        Leslie, I didn’t exactly figure out why I was so sure, the moment I glanced at your picture of the donkey, that the donkey was feminine but when I think of the question you just asked, i.e., if I thought of Ciara when I looked at the picture, I think I did. That’s why I saw the donkey as feminine because I had known another similarly-headed and loveable girl named “Ciara”. Yeah – I probably saw that dear old roman-nosed Ciara walking horse girl in your donkey’s head. Thanks for reminding me of that Walking Horse mare that was so fun to ride – almost like a draft horse sometimes. I will be thinking about Ciara all day today. In my head I will be picturing Ciara walking along in a nice pasture with the taller grasses reaching up to her knees and at her side will be your donkey girl next to her, her lower body parts hidden by the tall grass. I will be thinking of them discussing, as they share selected eating locations, how much they like their summer grazing options and nose rubs from people.

        Jerry and I are still researching the best pictures of my service dog to send to you and are hoping to take some more of her this summer and early Fall as her look changes a tad from season to season and I swear she grows more beautiful to us everyday. She, too, crosses her front legs just like Penelope (another excellent, excellent picture with perfectly rendered freckling and brindling done on Penelope’s coloration.) We will contact you very soon. Your old friend, over and out….

      • Once a horse lover, always a horse lover. 🙂

  23. I always like your sketches.
    I just wish you posted them a bit more often. 😀

    • Thank-you, Richard! Well, I have to be honest. Before this workshop I was not doing a pre-sketch just diving into the painting. When I drew, the work ended up a drawing and when I painted there was no drawing. I am beginning to get the idea that a pre-sketch is something I need to be doing so I will post some of them.

  24. I cannot believe the difference between the sketch and the color painting. The colors are so perfect – vibrant and alive. Nice job!

    • The color even shocked me! I didn’t realise that it was the midtones that turn a painting on in color. 🙂 Thank-you for the comment.

  25. Leslie, thank you for posting this information on washes. The colors on this painting are absolutely gorgeous and have inspired me to paint darker and with more color. Being new to this world of watercolors I have a lot to learn and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. I look forward to trying this technique on my own paintings and I look forward to following your creativity.

  26. The colors in the painting are amazing, Leslie! Think the donkey is my favorite painting of yours, so far that is, and not counting beginner’s luck as mentioned earlier in this thread. lol

    • Thank-you for this lovely comment, Adam. 🙂 I am a beginner at some of the things I learned at the workshop, but….it’s not fair to say that anymore, I understand. 🙂

  27. loving the donkey sketched and in living favorite part is her mouth it gives her a very curious personality!

    • Thank-you, DS! I like that part of her too. I know how soft their noses are to touch.

  28. You are so good at reminding us of the process. I still do not do it regularly ! I love your color swatches !! 🙂 The donkey is very cheerful and happy with the wonderful colors. Beautiful !

    • I don’t always follow strict guides like light to dark, but with this one it came together better that way. I didn’t want to botch her after I got those first washes in. This one took time. Three drying stages. Thank-you for the comment, Isabelle!

  29. I am speechless that donkey the painted one is crazy KOOL 🙂 Wow great art work 🙂

    • Thank-you, Alonso. Every once in awhile I get one like this. I assure you, it happens less than I would like.

  30. What a serene looking donkey! Wonderful colorings, Leslie. I adore the ears.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: