Thursday, January 28

Paint In the Sunshine (& Shadows)!

Today’s Image

As I sit here on a gloomy, overcast day, I'm writing today's blog on one of the most important things in painting or other media, such as pastel or even pencil--painting sunshine and shadows. I’m blogging about it because my next painting, which I have just started on, is full of sunlight and shadows on a tabletop.

As I said, I think the contrast between light and dark is the most important thing in your work you can do to give it life and attract a viewer’s eye.

Of course, not all motifs lend themselves to sunlight and shadow. I’m aware of that, but for those that do, it can make your painting sing, pop, or any other word you would like to insert here.

One quote that usually makes the list of notables is from Edward Hopper, who just wanted “to paint the sunlight on the side of a house.” It’s one of my most favorite art quotes, and I remember it every time I start a new work.

Sunlight and shadow give vitality and interest to a painting. As in the ying and yang of life, their dueling personalities provide the tension and flow to keep your eye moving around in a painting, among others techniques.

In another blog I wrote about the difficulty in painting (the color of) shadows, so I won’t go into all that again. I will say it will improve your work if you become somewhat proficient in the skill of painting these two intangible but very real objects.

Another thing Edward Hopper said as he was working on a painting was something like, ”OK, now I’m going to paint in the sunshine.” What!? He was actually talking about painting in the shadows around his subjects.

This is important--the moment you add a shadow, you add sunlight. You have “painted in the sunshine” on your work.

What’s more, the darker the shadow, the brighter the sunlight appears to be. If you don’t believe me, just look out the window on a sunny or partly cloudy day, and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, practice painting different levels of the sun’s brightness by progressively making a shadow darker and darker.

I didn’t say it was easy. Some shadows are easier to render than others. I think the shadow on a building as well as the shadow a building casts is easier (OK, somewhat easier) to capture than a shadow on natural objects such as a tree. In fact, painting the shadows of tree leaves can get downright difficult. But once you understand and learn how to do it, your trees will look more real.

It seems as if there are as many kinds of shadows as there are things to paint in the natural world. So it’s pretty amazing, to me anyway, to be able to paint nature’s reality.

If you want to paint in the style of realism, or representational art as it’s also called, there’s no better way to achieve that look than to paint (or draw) realistic looking shadows and sunlight.


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