Wednesday, June 2, 2010

controlling temperature of the light

I didn't work on my seascape project today. I got side tracked working on a painting I started a couple of days ago. I am still not finished with it yet, but I thought of something I can use this painting to explain. I am no longer self concious about showing half finished art on the blog. I figure you all have seen so many of my paintings now that you know the difference, and even if you think "that one looks weak" there will be another you will remember that you did like.

You can control, or decide, what the temperature of your light will be. I mean by this, a step beyond accurately observing the color of your light, I mean installing a temperature that you think will look good. In the picture above I have reversed the temperature of ther light. Normally outdoors you see warm lights and cool shadows. In the studio under north light you expect to see cool lights and warm shadows. I have deliberately painted all of the lights cool by using cooler pigments and adding black or blue to the colors of my lights. I have then heated up my shadows using warmer pigments. Again. I didn't observe this, I installed it.

The easiest way to do this is to begin by forcing your shadows towards a warm note. If you paint your lights coo,l you want your shadows hot. Your darkest darks should be red hot. With a little practice this isn't too hard, but it does call for moving beyond "painting the day" or recording your exact observations. Remember me saying that amateurs look at nature and say "what does it look like?" Pros look at nature and say "what can I do to it?"


Philip Koch said...

Stape wrote:

amateurs look at nature and say "what does it look like?" Pros look at nature and say "what can I do to it?"

That says it beautifully. There's an extended period I think when an artist starting out has to focus her/his attention on seeing what things looks like- on sharpening their vision. But the other side of that coin gradually comes into play as one gets their sea legs- the need to "install" the conscious choices that make the art meaningful.

For a lot of us painters, some of the best "installing" happens back in the studio.

ATOM said...

Love seeing those progress shots Stapleton, post away my friend!

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Good post, Stape!

Also: "Plein air is first learning to see, and then learning not to see so much!"

alotter said...

Your post begs the question, WHY choose to install cold light and warm shadow?

Lucy said...

I like the square within square within square composition radiating from the center. The warm shadows/cool lights seem to give an overcast look,
and a different kind of mood.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey, thanks.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Because sometimes it looks cool.Its also useful on gray days. If you are doing a show having paintings with different colored lights gives variety.

willek said...

I tried to do this with a full length cow portrait. I cooled off the bright whites, which could have been the case because of a deeply blue sky, then warmed up my shadows. Then, after covering the canvas, I chickened out and reverted back to warm light and cool shadows. I did throw some aquas in there, I suppose that is warmer than dead on blue. But what is actually meant by warm shadows. I have always supposed browns, but greens and purples are also considered warm. Isn't that so? A green is a cool yellow and a purple is a cool red. Your picture, with those two nice primaries on the right is just terrific.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Cool light is often a good response for an overcast day. Keeps em from being dead colored.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Michael: Thats a good quote.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am going to break down a palette and show which are which tonight. Don't touch that dial eider.