Saturday, May 07, 2016

Painting Shadows like Thomas Schaller

Since I started painting, I've always love seeing Thomas Schaller's watercolours. His paintings are always full of light. In the past week, I re-watched his video entitled Capturing Light in Watercolours - How to Paint Cities.

When most artist paint shadows, they use mainly neutral colours. In T. Schaller's paintings the shadows are a big part of the story of his paintings. The shadows are filled with warm gold colours - he refers to them as luminous shadows.

Here are some of my observations from this video, in particular his unique approach to shadows.

He lays a first wash while the paper is on the easel at a good angle to allow gravity to assist. It is important to paint quickly but still plan the brush strokes.  He is careful to preserve small areas of untouched paper - such as a break in the sky or the distant thread of water beyond.

He likes to keep the paper wet so that he can paint from light to dark and keep things connected. This also helps the colours "breathe" into each other and to achieve warm and cool combinations.

As he paints, he creates various types of edges and toggles from one type of edge to the other.  For a larger wash, he gradually changes the colour of the wash from the top to bottom - the changes of colours are seamless and offer no distraction but show light. He starts connecting shapes with the first wash.  In the shadow areas, he likes to juxtapose near complementary colours so that beautiful neutral tones are created organically.  The toggle between warm and cool is exciting.

Once the first wash completed and allowed to become almost dry - but not entirely since the bottom portion is still fairly wet - T. Schaller quickly begins the second wash.  Again he toggles between warm and cool colours on the same fa├žade and then connects shapes  to ensure everything feels like it belongs.  This makes the colours vibrate and create a magical effect.

He loves to paint luminous shadows with the concept of bounced light.  For this, he charges his brush with cadmium orange or bright yellow to illuminate the underside of a deep overhang. In other areas, he drops red and gold in the shadow areas to interject warm colours.

He doesn't often mix his colours. The colours out of the tube mix together on the wet paper.  Use of sediment colours is recommended to avoid the creation of mud, but you may need to encourage them to mix with a spray.

Here are a few of his paintings. Have a close look at the shadow areas:
Thomas Schaller collage
Have a great week

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