Velvet Elvis Or A Masterpiece? It’s About Values

Values Your values are vitally important to developing your Life Palette. I did a painting workshop at the Tucson Art Academy with an artist named Gabor Svagrik. I went home each night hearing Gabor’s voice echoing the same key phrase in my mind. He stated it incessantly, and it was profoundly simple: “Values, values, values.”

What’s a value?

In painting, value has to do with dark and light. For instance, mountains in the distance appear lighter and bluer than mountains that are closer to you. An example of this is my painting at the top of this blog: “Rocky Mountain Ridges .” The values cause the mountains to look as if they are at different distances, yet we all know that it is a one-dimensional painting.

Are Your Values “off”?

If an artist reverses the values, essentially, they will appear to be reversed in the painting. In other words, the mountains that are supposed to appear far away and distant will look like they are very close to the viewer. When an artist sees that the value of the distant mountains is too dark, they’ll say it needs to be “pushed back”—that is, the mountains need to be made to look like they’re further away. Anytime that happens the values of the painting are said to be “off.” If the color values are off, then the entire painting is off. Everyone can see it. You may not be a trained artist or able to put it into words, but if the values are wrong in a painting, you’ll know it and you won’t like the painting because of it.

Getting your values right

The same is true with your Life Palette. When your values don’t line up with God’s values as defined in Scripture, you end up working against Him as He paints on the canvas of your life. He’s working on a masterpiece, but the values you’re placing on your Life Palette may be limiting the look of your canvas to a cheap, drugstore painting, a “Velvet Elvis,” when it should be not only better than a “Velvet Elvis,” but a masterpiece.

In his book Fill Your Oil Painting with Light & Color, artist Kevin Macpherson says, “Many students say they have trouble finishing a piece, but most often the problem lies at the start of their painting process. Most people can’t finish because their foundation has not been properly laid.” The foundation of your life is your values, and they must be established as a core of who you are and all you do. If you don’t feel you’ve “properly laid” your values, the good news is God will give you the chance to start fresh and new.


Be honest, do you have a Velvet Elvis somewhere in your house?