Saturday, March 12, 2016

Shadows Make or Break

I don't think I'll ever get over my nervousness about painting shadows.  I normally add them at the end and afraid that I will ruin the painting with shadows. Shadows can make or break a painting.

When you read about painting, you'll find so much about creating light. In addition, almost every artist bio will mention how they are "capturing" the light in their art. The intangibility of light has been a special point of attention for many artist.

It would be easy to draw conclusions that painters need only focus on the light and let the shadows fall where they may. This would be a major mistake since light is nothing without shadows. Shadows are not simply a dark mass that borders the light. It is better to think of shadows as an entity as alive as the light. It is the shadows that help shape the light, that draw attention to the light, and that often ground a subject, e.g. tree to its surrounding. 

Consequently, it's important that we think as much in terms of mastering the shadows as we do of mastering the light.

Once you get to shadows, you'll notice that some people use black or gray - there is an absence of color. These instances are missed opportunities because shadows are full or bright colorful, transparent shapes. All the surrounding "objects" reflect light, the sky is reflected, the flowers reflected light also the leaves and so on. All these colors can be found in the shadows. Seeing and grasping the characteristics of colours when painting shadows, cannot be overstated.

Have a look at this streetscape from Thomas Schaller. The shadows make the painting.
Thomas Schaller watercolour
Have a great week

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