Thursday, March 25, 2010

A question on shadows

I was asked recently;

I have a question on shadows and their color. I think mine are either too colorful, or too gray, or too.......something. They are very difficult for me, is there a guideline to follow?
I am very conscious of values so I think I got the light and dark stuff right, but those shadows are difficult.


Dear CBH;
let me load more bullets into the magazine, and here we go.

  • Your shadows should always be darker than your lights. However in this picture I have cheated them really high key on the road. They are influenced by the material on which they fall.
  • Outside they will tend to be cool. The warmer the lights the more this will be.
  • I throw accents into my shadows to make them lively, see those in the ruts of the road?
  • Notice how I use the weeds to interlace the lights and the shadows. Here is a link to a post about that.
  • Remember that step one is observation. You need to be able to correctly observe what is before you and represent it. However, that may not be the best presentation. Sometimes you will need to be able to make some changes to get it to look better. The trick is to know when and how. There is one of the reasons that art is hard.
  • In this painting I have cheated the lights towards a yellow, the color of the light, and painted the shadows the local color rather than as violet as they actually appeared.
  • I don't know of a colored versus grave rule for color. I have painted them many ways and you have to figure that out for each picture.
  • You will need to study both nature and the work of artists who came before you. There are answers in both places and neither can be ignored.
  • Study Seago, Metcalf, Carlson, Constable, Inness, and Corot, these artists really knew how to handle shadows well.


willek said...

Good posting, Stape. A little different from your usual shadow explanations which have been just great. Wishing you a dry basement.

Linda Crank said...

Do you subscribe to the teaching that shadows should be "as flat as a hat and flatter than that," and what do you think is meant by that?

Dot Courson said...

Fair warning, Buddy...If I get hit by one of those stray bullets flying around from your blog - you'll be hearing from my lawyer...

My favorite is your use of freestanding...


But I'm always excited to see those "big" words", and usually will write them down!

Tim said...

Great info as usual! I think the main thing to do is to just paint from life every day. Within a week colors you never saw before will be popping out at you like crazy. Or even just analyzing shadows all the time, especially when you are not painting.

Its strange though, when you say they come out too this or that, then its an easy job to correct it, no? You put a little dab on, compare it to the rest of your painting, and then modify. I treat my palette piles as little car radios, dial a little to the left, doesn't work? Then a little to the right. I guess my pallete radio has 12 dials, but thats how it it goes.

I was thinking maybe a good solution would be to paint with a limited palette of Ultra blue, yell ocher and terra rosa for a tubes worth. Then it would be more difficult to get something in the pile "in the heat of the moment". After a while one becomes so frustrated at not being able to get the "right" hue mixed, and thats when you add another color (usually a cad yellow or transp red oxide/burnt sienna)

Could be worth a shot!

By the way Stape, I cant thank you enough for the Nightingale tip, I got the "Essence of Success" its 16 and a half hours of Earl at his best!

Philip Koch said...

I especially like the advice to look at the shadows in paintings from the artists of the past you admire. So often, so very often actually, we only learn how to see reality once great artists show us how to look.

That is one of the great roles artist play in our collective culture.

Gregory Becker said...

I just did a post on my blog that the reader may find interesting. It has to do with the question of shadows.
I'd like you to look at it as well Stape. Let me know what you think.
Great post.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Thanks, so far its dry.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sometimes. I would have to do a whole post to explain that. The short answer is not to excessively study or model your shadows.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will try to write some big words soon.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I not only analyze how shadows look, but how they SHOULD look.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Here! here! Study the dead! Study the dead!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will have to study that more to figure it out. Here is the link to that extensive chapter on values in light and shade.

............Stape said...

I know this is a little late but I've been looking at these shadows; are you sure you didn't lighten them up a just a wee,little too much?