Value, the quality of light or dark in a tone or color, is one of the most undervalued, misunderstood and vitally important aspects of painting.
Sadie J. Valeri is a contemporary realist painter who has followed a fascination with value into a series of challenging still life subjects in which wax paper, a humble household item more common when I was growing up than it is now, is given a role of high drama.
Her arrangements of crumpled wax paper, wrapped around, behind or over objects like glass bottles, pewter cups or silver pitchers, all with their own unique characteristics of reflectivity, are intricate marvels of value and subtle color.
The translucency of the wax paper, so different from plastic, when crumpled and folded back upon itself, creates a broad range of values, across the scale. Valeri’s paintings capture the effects of light passing through and over the complex surfaces, revealing intricate details within a delicate fog of tonal subtleties.
The image above (with detail, below), Silver Globe Pitcher, is 16 x 20 inches (40 x 50cm) oil on panel. There is a video of her process for this particular painting, tracing its progress from original sketch to finished painting (image above, bottom).
When viewing the paintings in her online gallery, be sure to click on the initial large images for the larger versions. There is also a selection of figure drawings, including a study after one of my favorite Michelangelo drawings.
The selection of work in the gallery is disappointingly small; fortunately, there more images available on Valeri’s blog, which goes into details about process (again, be sure to click for the larger images) and chronicles her recent month of study with the Hudson River Fellowship.
(For more on the Hudson River Fellowship, a sort of outdoor atelier led by Jacob Collins and devoted to the artistic principles of pre-impressionist landscape painters like Asher B. Durand, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, see their web site, and these posts from James Gurney.)
In addition to her personal blog, Valeri maintains a fascinating blog called Women Painting Women, which features contemporary women artists painting women as subjects (and is likely to be the subject of a separate post when I can go through it in more detail, as well as a source of other potential subjects).
By the way, if you haven’t used wax paper for a while (or ever) pick some up for both your kitchen and studio (I prefer it to plastic in may ways, it’s great for stay-wet palettes). If you’re an artist in the mood to give yourself a challenge, crumple some up as subjects for some value studies (then come back and look at Valeri’s work with renewed appreciation).