One of the issues I've been working on is developing a wide range of value. Apparently Im not the only watercolor painter who struggles with this as there is much written about it in all the books I have and the numerous youtube videos I've watched.
They all suggest to do quick value sketches before painting. I've been doing that and it helps. I also have a value scale. Several actually.
Value is even more of a challenge when working with color at the same time so yesterday I decided to use a very contrasty reference photo. I used an old photo of my grandmother. The old black and white professional photos are really great for contrast. I also got to look at my grandmother all day long. She was a very important part of my life growing up and I consider her one of the most important influences in my life. My grandmother believed in me and encouraged me.
While I am not limited myself to genre right now, I know I will never become a portrait painter. This painting I am posting does not look like my grandmother, but I feel I have achieved a better understanding of value. Eliminating color really helps. It also helps to use up the extra paint on my palette. If you mix enough colors together you usually end up with sepia.