Japanese dragon and dragonfly

How important are the values in a dragonfly's wing?

dragonfly japanese dragon ukiyo-e values May 27, 2022

I like to self-check whenever I take a position on something. "Am I (mostly) right on this, or (mostly) wrong?" Most issues are too complex to be certain about, and I try to embrace uncertainty as much as possible. That's where creativity takes place. 

That being said, the guardrails a robust method provides are important to producing excellent work, something I strive for. Yesterday, after (finally) completing my Perfect Values course (here) I was able to get more work done on this commissioned painting of an old Ukiyo-e dragon woodblock with a real dragonfly landing on it. 

I had been questioning my next move, mainly because I could see that the dragonfly needed to be much more convincing and I wanted it to be uber-convincing. It needs to float just over the dragon print, except for one place where the dragon's claw is pinching the dragonfly's wing. And painting dragonfly wings?!!

Seriously challenging. (Which I love...)

How exactly do I make these tricky illusions happen? 

When it comes to form that are so compelling they fool the brain to shimmer back and forth between flat and 3D the answer is always values. And values are never true and accurate the first time they're painted. That doesn't mean they can't be beautiful on a first painting. Just the whatever you've mixed has moved into a value compression. 

So I put on my big-boy painter pants, wiped away my tears and got to work. The wings, which I feared most, were actually easy. Pushing the values of the brown in the body was straightforward. Still more work to do, but now the dragonfly is clearly above the print and casting a show on it. 

And it was all due to pushing the values out towards the extremes.


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