Beth Markel

The eye cannot always discern value, but a B/W photo never lies

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Beth Markel

I have, what a lot of sewing or quilting enthusiasts call, a “scrap bin.”  My bins could easily occupy a 5′ x 10′ storage unit, not stacked to the ceiling, but respectably shoulder high. It’s not something I’m proud of…but I USE my scraps!  At the beginning of the year, I began sorting scraps by color – just to make them easier to tackle.  There is a lovely, local long-arm quilter (Ruth McCormick) who also passes on her “crumbs” bag, but being a long-armer, has lots of strips of respectable length.  So enter a project I ONLY allow myself to work on 2 hours in the mornings, often before the sun comes up. I use this time limit as one of the parameters for this project, because I want it to be something I look at critically and develop slowly.

Most of us have a cell phone in our pocket or nearby.  I use the Black/White feature or B/W Classic feature (for Samsung Galaxy) to evaluate not the color of the blocks, but the VALUE of the blocks.  What’s the difference?  Colors are Roy G. Biv, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet, as many of us recall from learning about art and rainbows.  What is infinitely more critical to me, however, is the value, or depth of color, within each block, and how the blocks interact together.  Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit.  So far, I’ve fiddled with the lay-out about 15 minutes each morning, and have settled on a 6-block wide x 8-block high size, and will continue to fiddle with value as I make more Indigo & Violet blocks.  The next project may then be ROY blocks…as I said, lots of strips and scraps to work with.

See if you can spot where the values are all too similar, or unbalanced:

2_14_19 layout

2_14_19 layout


2-14_19 B/W Values

2-14_19 B/W Values


Stronger blocks together

Stronger blocks together


Finished layout until Monday. Value distribution is better...

Finished layout until Monday. Value distribution is better…


The camera is your friend. The human eye looks at color, is drawn to color, and often does not see value differences in subtle ways. The eye cannot always discern value, but a Black/White photo never lies. To make your art more dynamic, use value to balance pieces out.








KIm Wolf on February 15, 2019

Your work is ALWAYS amazing. <3

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