Sep 16, 2011

Shadow Play

I Love Shadows
by Sharon Teal-Coray

You can see a cast shadow from the black pot on the basket
Look at the reflected light on the right side of the white pot

Without shadows his arms would be "flat" The give him "form"

Look at the colors in the shadows on the tee pee
The brulliant light on him tells us he is sitting in the sun.Placing him against he dark background gives the paintings a lot of visual impact.

I love shadows, they are mysterious, they define objects.

A cast shadow will describe the form of the surface upon which it falls. A shadow can illustrate the shape of an object, by planes and angles. It can literally wrap itself around a curved object like an orange. On one side of the orange there will be a soft shadow with light on the other side making it look round. A shadow from a chair sitting on a porch will follow the ups and down of the old boards on the porch.

Light shining on a box will have a light side and possibly a top plane that is illuminated and a side that is in total shadow.

A shadow on the ground, or on a tabletop, will attach objects firmly to that surface, without them they would appear to be floating. I love to deliberately organize my compositions by light and dark, they can be some of the most vibrant compositions I use. To really make a strong statement you need contrasting areas of shadow and light.

To some beginner painters a shadow implies the lack of light, when in reality they are full of colors. Painting shadows black or grey will only make them look monotonous. Shadows are never opaque, they are transparent. To create this transparency I love to apply several layers of a glaze over the shadows, this creates depth and makes them come alive. Shadows may also contain hints of the color complementary to the local color of the object itself, so if your object is orange your shadow will have touches of blue in it. I like to put a orange glaze on top of a blue shadow, this creates a beautiful, deep shadow that has a bit of mystery!
To really learn about shadows start to observe things around you with a different eye. When you are outside look at the direction the shadows fall. Check how dark they appear, check closely to see the subtle colors they contain. Look at the edges, see where they are sharp and where they are soft.
Having recognized the direction of the shadows, become aware of where the light source is located. The sun will be the light source outdoors and indoors, it can be from a lamp or a window.
Look at the temperature, repeating patterns and reflected light.
Accurate observation of shadow tone values, in particular, will help you extremely if you have found that your paintings lack visual impact and vibrancy.

Always study the local color of the surface where a shadow is falling. Don’t assume it should be grey. A red table top will be different a blue table top. Remember to use the complementary color for the shadow. Carefully look at the value of the shadow, how dark is it really? Notice that it is darker and stronger where it starts and lighter and softer as it moves away from the object that casting it. The edge is very soft, you wont find hard edges here!

A general rule of thumb is warm light- cool shadow, cool light- warm shadow, but do be very watchful as some shadows will contain both warm and cool.
Learning about shadows can be an exciting journey, just take a look around you and you will be surprised at what is right before your eyes!

Sharon Teal-Coray

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