Once I have secured my design with the Trapping steps, I then need to add to my VALUE REGISTER so that I can control the values of my “Colored Umber” layers. I love to paint on the Ampersand clayboard surfaces as they are most like the surfaces that the early Flemish used. When this surface is sealed it is no longer white but picks up a warmer cast and drops in value to around a #9.5. That is my first given value. Drama is most easily produced with a darker value background, so the next thing I usually do is to BEGIN to drop my background value to around a value #5.
This is the standard MIDDLE value and is usually considered to be a NEUTRAL value. Once this is accomplished, I then will have better control on just what a value #9, #8, #7 and value #6 should look like. When my color washes on my items and my background seem to merge together, I know that it is then time to move my background down to around a value #3. In my mind, I am using my background as the STAGE for my paintings and my items as the ACTORS in my play. They are the items that the LIGHT will focus on, not my background.
Now this composition is ready to begin the transparent “Colored Umber” layers on the items in the design. I know what a value #5 looks like and what a value #9.5 looks like. So it is time to apply my first washes at a value #9 or #8.5 as I begin my journey down the value scale.