Art theory Oil Painting Painting

Painting Value Studies with Peggi Kroll-Roberts DVDs

Block Study 5, from value to color
Block Study 5, from value to color, oil on canvas, 9x9"

After viewing and savoring my Peggi Kroll-Roberts DVDs, I’m doing the exercises she teaches in them, starting with value studies. To keep it simple and focus on values I used colored blocks for my subject. Above is the last study of the day in which I tried to apply to color what I’d learned by doing the gray-scale value studies below.

Value Study with blocks # 1
Value Study with blocks # 1, oil on canvas, 9x12"

One of the huge new (to me) things I learned from the Simple Value Plan DVD is that when you make a value plan for a painting, you can choose a range of values for the painting, such as making it high-key (mostly light) or  low-key (predominantly dark), rather than copying the values as you see them. Kroll-Roberts compares this to playing music in different keys.

She recommends making a value plan before starting a painting by simplifying and grouping shapes in the image into two or three values, with 1/3 light and  2/3 dark or vice versa for a more interesting design. In the study above on the right I used only mid to dark grays, for a low-key, predominantly dark study.

Value Study with blocks #2
Value Study with blocks #2, oil on canvas, 9x12"

Another tool she demonstrates is to first mix a value scale and put it at the bottom of your value plan study as I did above on the bottom right, and select your values from that scale. You can see the 3 blobs of paint at the bottom of most of these studies that indicate the values I intended to use.

Value study with blocks #3
Value study with blocks #3, oil on canvas, 9x12"

Above I wanted the study to use the full value scale, black, white and mid-gray. I noted the colors of the blocks and how I was interpreting their values (yellow and white blocks and beige table top = white/gray; red, green and blue = gray/black,  depending on if they were in light or shadow). I did some more adjusting of value once I had it blocked in so there are more than 3 values.

Value Study with blocks #4 - High Key
Value Study with blocks #4 - High Key, oil on canvas, 9x12"

On Peggi’s DVD High Key Value, she demonstrates creating a high key (mostly light values) painting by simply selecting the values that are mostly very light. I tried doing that with this study, and I think it works, but could have used an even lighter “darkest dark.”

6 replies on “Painting Value Studies with Peggi Kroll-Roberts DVDs”

I love seeing how you’re working through these. I got the DVD set based on your recommendation but so far have only watched the one on values and have done no studies. You’re spurring me on to actually try to use this stuff!


I just started painting some wooden blocks after hearing about Henry Hensche on the Savvy Painter podcast. I didn’t know who he was and my Googling led me to the block studies. It seems he has a fairly religious following. I’m not that deep into it, yet, but I want to paint some block studies in the sunlight to see what I can learn from it. From everything I’ve read so far, it’s a very valuable and enlightening experience.

While waiting for my blocks to dry I thought I’d Google block studies and I found your blog, only to realize, I’m already following you. Lol!

Your blocks look great. I can say with a little bit of certainty that Henry Hensche’s block studies were to learn to shift the plane with color, as opposed to value. The old colorist vs. value painter war and there is some written where he didn’t like the bastardization of his color theories, i.e. using value and color to shift the plane. As I said earlier, I’m not that into it, yet. I find “value” in both. Guess I’m a child of my time. Anyway, I’m looking forward to doing my block studies. I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot.

When I post my block studies later this week, I’ll include a link to the Hensche information, or just Google “Henry Hensche” for more on his theories. Very interesting stuff.


By the way, I’m really interested in the information you shared about the high and low key studies. I “knew” about that, but seeing it worked out makes it so much more sensical. I also wanted to compliment you on your compositions in these studies. They’re very interesting and enjoyable to look at.


Thanks ​ so much for your kind words about my blog and block studies. It’s ironic that you found those studies rather than the ones I did when I actually studied with Camille. I took her Color Boot Camp weeklong workshop and her Monday morning classes at her studio for a while. She isn’t kidding that it takes many years to really understand the Hensche way of painting. Camille is truly a master at it. I too decided I didn’t have the years (or the dedication to that particular way of seeing/painting) to follow that path but I’m grateful for what I learned in the process.

You can see my Hensche-influenced block and landscape studies here:,,,

On Sun, Apr 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM, wrote:



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