John Singer Sargent, image from art renewal .org
Last night I talked about using your values to get light in your painting. Values are the most important driver of light in a painting . The next way to get more light is with color. The trick is to paint your lights a different color than your shadows. I know what you are thinking, you already knew that. But you didn't. Here's what I mean.
Its going to take a larger palette than the three color palettes that are popular in some circles today. You will need a warm and a cool of each color, as I outlined the other day and elsewhere in this blog. Like here.
Imagine if you are painting a red barn on a sunlit day. One side is in the light and the other is in the shadow. If you paint the light side with cadmium red and white, don't paint the shadow side with cadmium red, and ultramarine, use a different color, like alizirin or indian red and ultramarine. See what I mean? It sounds simple when I say paint the lights and shadows a different color, but I mean that you should actually use a different pigment.
Imagine painting a yellow house this time. Say, you painted the light side with cadmium yellow, if you paint the shadow side with cadmium yellow plus a violet, you have included the color cadmium yellow in both the light and the shadow. Instead you might use ------------ yellow ochre plus your violet. That's using a different color in the shadow than the light.
Now it isn't always possible to use this ploy, however sometimes it works very well. But you can't do it on a three color palette. That is one of the reasons why I have a broader palette.
Look for a moment at the Sargent above. The lights are painted in a high key, almost white to get glare. Where there is color though, there is an orange- yellow ocher color. The shadows are painted that powerful blue. Blue is the compliment of the color of the lights. You can usually expect the color of the shadow to be rooted in the compliment of the light. In the studio you might have a cool blue light and hot orange shadows.
Sargent has kept his shadows a lot lower in value than his lights. This huge spread in the values from the light to the shadow gives a very bright look. We judge everything within a painting by the way it looks compared to everything else. If we were to lighten those blue shadows, reducing the contrast between them and the lights, the sunlit look would lessen.
Here's another Sargent, this time its a watercolor. Take a look at that statue over on the right. the light hits it from the right and it is a white glare, like our first example above. The shadow edge is blue as the form turns out of the light. The reflected light is hot, and it is as bright as it can be made without destroying the illusion of the form. Notice also the super darks in that railing at 4 o'clock. That deep accent propels the illusion of light even more. There's that comparison thing going on again. The lights won't look light unless the shadows are deep. Both this picture and the one at the t0p of the page are painted to give the most extreme possible light.