Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Color and light in different parts of a tree.

Here is another tree with a lesson inscribed on it. Look at the body, or the middle of the foliage. On the left it is that deep green and on the right it is a still darker more violet green. The leaves themselves are of course really the same color. They are different colors and values because of the different sorts of light hitting them. The very green leaves over on the left hand side are being illuminated by reflected light. That is coming from the brightly lit field.

The leaves to their right are in the core shadow. They are the least illuminated part of the tree and receive little light. There are branches sticking out into the light in the middle of the tree, these are receiving light from the sky above, as the tree is somewhat top lit. Top light is usually going to happen in the middle of the day and is generally the least desirable working light in the landscape incidentally. These top light areas are high in value and they are influenced by the color of the sky reflecting in them, particularly in their high lights. The reflected lights are where the leaves act almost as little mirrors positioned in such a way as to turn the sun light and send it directly at you. Highlights in particular tend to be tinged with the reflected color of the sky.

The top of the tree is in the light and is influenced by the color of the light. The more a passage reflects the nature of the light, the brighter it will appear. That is, as the object is increasingly illuminated, the local color and value of the object will decrease and the color of the light and its value will replace them. Although it is not apparent in this photo it is often useful to introduce a reflected sky color as the tree turns over on its top. That is where the planes of the tree are no longer on the side, and facing you, but on the top and facing the sky. Cooling the top of a tree like that will make it "go over", that is, it will seem to round as its form turns up and out of our sight on its way to the other side of the tree. (gee, I hope that made sense).

Often the trunk will be full of reflected light from the ground. This is important because it ties the tree into the same world as the ground. This small percentage of shared color keeps the tree and the ground in the same tonal equation. If there is no common or ambient tonality in a painting it can become a mosaic of unrelated color. And you don't want that.


willek said...

About the trunk. I see, in your photo a little lightening towards the base of the trunk, but the upper part of the trunk is among the darkest darks.

Can I bring some recent snow pictures to camp for you to critique? Is that included in the price or would it be extra?

Stapleton Kearns said...

That will cost you a cup of coffee.
The variation in the value of the trunk is the reducing reflected light as it rises away from the ground which is the source of the light.

Dot Courson said...

Looks like Mississippi in the springtime! Good in depth description of top-lit tree light.
I call it "turning the tree" when I cool edges to show the receding form.
I'm a die -hard landscape painter and sometimes I think: in the end I'll be muttering on my deathbed, "It WAS all just cylindars, cones, spheres, and boxes!!!"

Unknown said...

You almost got me to put a tree into a seascape tonight, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Maybe next time....
When I was learning on Maui it was a matter of course to put palm trees into seascapes, I've revolted too far I guess.

Sidharth Chaturvedi said...

The biggest eye opener in this tree series so far has definitely been your saying to think of a tree as a 3D object, not just a flat shape. The bit about using the sky color to turn the form of the tree top definitely adds to that, since I've just been treating it as "bluish shape" without any further thought. It's the kind of thing that's so obvious, but is quickly forgotten when I actually sit down to paint.

willek said...

Coffee it is.

Green violet? I have difficulty seeing violet in the area you mention. I often do not see some colors that others claim are there. I have been studying this picture and at times, I THINK there may be violet in there. Maybe it is my monitor.

Gregory Becker said...

Should there be colors created to influence the local color? Meaning should you add sky color to the local color to get the color or of the tops?...should you add field color to local color to get reflected light color?...That is since the sky and the ground planes are the greatest source of influential light.
Further more...should you add tree shadow color to the locall color of the field to get the shadows?
Would this bring more unity?
Sorry, alot of questions in there.

Unknown said...

Wow. I'm going to start calling this the "action-packed blog" - there is just so much going on. I'm catching up from a few days and these are some of the best posts yet.
We all owe you a cup of coffee AND a breakfast sandwich!
Here's a question: IN GENERAL, since outside light is typically warm in temperature, is direct reflected light also warm? That has been my assumption. For example, in painting that tree trunk, the shadow color of it would be cool, but towards the bottom where the ground is reflecting, I'd warm up the color. yes? no?

I am in deep depression because this stupid shoulder injury is keeping me from going to snow camp.

billspaintingmn said...

Good post! Good questions!
All of these observations add up
to knowing the subject as well , or as real as possible.
Stape, this really helps out your
fellow artists.
Hopefully there will alway be a bit of Stape in my art.
(I think I'm going to tack a cheat sheet to my easel!)

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am guessing that springtime comes pretty soon in Mississippi. I have instructed my wife that if I should look like I am dying I want her to put me in the shower and turn it on nice and warm, then start cooking bacon.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think you made the right choice. I think trees in seascapes are tacky, unless they are in Carmel hanging onto cliffs.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think you have to own both lenses, flat and form and switch back and forth to get the job done.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is there when you actually stand out there in the summer and that colors my impression when I describe the photo. If I were required to form that color from the light to its left though, I would reach for the violet.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Those are all good strategies to be applied when they are useful. There is no ALWAYS answer of course.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Often reflected light is warm and the general convention is to exaggerate the warmth. The old Rockport guys used to do that under the eves of white houses and I always liked the way it looked. Strisik did that a lot.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I often tack "to do" lists next to my paintings as a check list of what I need to do to finish them.

jake gumbleton said...

I just wanted to leave a note of thanks for all the wonderful information you post on your blog. I read Carlsons book and enjoyed it a great deal. I own the artistic anatomy of trees too but have yet to pluck up the courage to read it. You have posted some pure gold on here lately!