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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Light and Shadow as a visual approach

What once was Greenland, CO, oil on linen, 20x30

We are done with this month's visual approach and I have yet to write a post on it. Light and Shadow is pretty self-explanatory; where there is light, there is a shadow. Simple, right? Not so much. This approach does use elements we have touched on previously, which makes it that much more challenging. How to incorporate them all into this visual approach? First think dark/light pattern. It is a good thing when starting a light and shadow painting to think of the large dark shape vs the light shape, what kind of pattern does it create? Then you must decide if you are going to tell the story in the light or in the shadow. One of them will dominate or have more detail and break down of shapes and color and the other will  be simplified. This is where you can spot a painter unclear of the concept and I made this error for a long time. ie Putting the same amount of detail in both the light and the shadow.

So, you lay out your composition with the dark/light pattern, then what? Add your middle value; There is a half-tone or the bridge between the light and the shadow. This is where Local Tone enters (remember, local tone has three values, light, medium and dark)The thing that keeps Light and Shadow separate from Local Tone is that local tone is flat; light and shadow has more form as you have the light source and highlights. When adding the light source you have to decide if the light is cool or warm. If it is a warm light on a sunny day, the shadows will be cool. If the light is cool, the shadows will be warm.You must also determine the direction of the light source; is it front lit, top lit, back lit, or lit from below or coming in at an angle. The light will hit the planes of the objects in a pattern and similar plane shifts will have similar values of light hitting them.

Kevin painted on my project because I wanted a demonstration of using gradation in my sky. Gradation is also an element of Light and Shadow. From right to left it was to be warm color moving to cool, and from light to dark; then from the top to bottom, dark to light and cool to warm. I can do one direction of the other but was not quite sure how to do both directions at once. I did give it a college try but was not satisfied with the results. His version of my sky, in the photo above is very gradual, and truthfully, I really only see the top down gradation and not so much the right to left. But be that as it may, it was helpful to me to see how he approached it.

I am still not finished with this painting and I missed the critique. There are lots of dried grasses coming through the snow that will add a nice contrast to the blue sky and snow, as well as give an overall warmth to the scene. As you can see, lots to think about when working with light and shadow, but it becomes second nature once you get all these things working together.

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