images courtesy of artrenewal.org
Here is a Sargent watercolor that shows an interesting effect. I have pointed this out before, but I want to dig a little deeper in to it. I was teaching the workshop this past weekend and we had lots of bright sunlight. I was telling the workshop participants about this idea and since it is fresh in my mind I will tell you about it too. Tonight I want to show some artists representing the brightest sunlight. The idea I want to mention is
YOU CAN SHOW THE LIGHT IN THE ILLUMINATED PART OF AN OBJECT, AND EXPLAIN THE COLOR IN THE SHADOW.
When an object takes enormous amounts of sunlight the color is "blown out", that is the light side of the object becomes more the color of the light than its local color. But you can still tell the color story of the object by using the local color to form the shadow. Sargent is using that effect in the watercolor above.
This wonderfully tactile and mysterious Sargent of the floor of a Venetian church shows him using the same device. The light obliterates everything in the center of the painting. As the stones of the floor turn into shadow, their color is revealed. Sargent does this up in the top middle of the painting also, ,see that blast of light from the window hitting there? As the wall recedes to the right , the color in it appears. Notice too how Sargent has linked almost all of the darks in this painting into one great decorative unit of interesting and varied shapes.
Above is a Sargent portrait . I could have used a number of his portraits as an example but this is one I don't think I have seen many times. Look at her breast and neck area, the light is so bright that almost all of the detail disappears into the glare. Over to the right of her neck Sargent shows the local color of her skin and tells that part of the story.
Here is Sorolla doing the same thing. Look at the light on the ground around this figure. Where the light hits. there is nearly pure white paint, Sorolla uses the shadow to tell us what color the ground actually is. The lights are telling the story of the light, and the shadows the story of the color.The next time you are out in the brightest sunlight painting, try this. It allows you to still go for the value and not worry about keeping the color in an object which might prevent you from getting to the highest values. Knowing you can cheat the color into the shadow will allow you to go for the glare of the highest lights.