Once you have your great reference we come to the dilemma of how much value to put on the picture. The reason this is a dilemma is because many young artists are afraid if you put the value on to strong that it will mess up the color.
But nothing could be further from the truth. You need good value to inform how you see the color. Without light you don't see color. However, with out darkness its difficult to tell what to focus on. Value adds contrast. It helps pop what you need to see. Value helps create focal points. Focal points are places the artist is trying to get the audience to pay attention to.
Norman Rockwell's The Runway is keyed in a light value range. The highest contrast is the boy. This makes the boy the main focal point. Compositionally, we would refer to the boy as the papa bear. Between the boy's high contrasting clothes and his head popping against the soda clerk's shoulder value wise allows the viewer to focus on him first. The police man is the next most important, but while he is darker he has less contrast.
Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Fear is another example of using strong values to get your desired result. This painting was originally painted by Rockwell as a reason why Americans should fight in World War 2 based upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four Freedom's.
The values are keyed very differently than the Runaway, these are much darker. The highest contrast is on the father as is the directed underlying message, "Father's go to war to protect their wives and children." Notice the father's bright shirt contrasting against the very dark background. This makes the father the focal point.
Stephen Spielberg, the famous movie director, was so impressed with Rockwell's The Freedom from Fear storytelling in this image he created an entire movie based upon this painting called Empire of the Sun.
He said their was more story telling in that one painting than most directors can cram into an entire movie. What he was talking about was Rockwell's brilliant use of focal points created by pushing the values like Mozart would push piano keys.
Here is a modern homage to the Freedom from Fear...
In your own work we will be stressing hitting the right value notes to push focal points.
Don't be afraid of value. Push it! Embrace it! Value first and then color. Your colors will be better for it.
Ok questions you need to answer about your work...
- What is the most important thing you are trying to emphasize in your poster?
- How are you using value to make this important element the focal point for the viewer?
- Is the contrast you are creating clarity or confusion?
Remember the easier your audience understands what you are trying to communicate the more likely they will appreciate it.