Posts Tagged ‘La Rambla’

Light and contrast

Monday, March 1st, 2010

One of the elements that attracts me to a watercolor subject is the way light interacts with it.  Sometimes the light glances off the subject, almost obliterating what is sometimes termed the “local color.”  Other times the light shines through a portion of the subject, and I feel challenged to depict that translucent glow in my work.  The play of light on texture often makes the two seem inseparable, daring me to depict both the light and the texture appropriately.  In other situations, light seems to reflect back and forth among various objects, reverberating around an area in an almost tangible way.

Yet light alone provides no sense of depth.  Neither does a “pretty picture” necessarily illustrate the richness of the subject.  For a sense of depth, either physical or emotional, we need to see contrast.

Contrasts may appear in many forms.  On the surface, we often think of contrasts between light colors and deeper colors, or highlights and darkness or shadow.  Yet who says shadows are necessarily dark?  Shadows are not always dark but are often filled with reflected light and color.  The colors we discover in shadows can suggest an exciting sense of liveliness and vigor in the subject.

Diverse textures, shapes, sizes, and values can also be contrasted to add dimension to a painting.  Even contrasting a subject with the context in which it is placed can suggest something about the subject that might not otherwise be apparent.  Does the color of the background suggest a hidden side of the subject?  Does the variety of brush strokes or the juxtaposition of colors suggest an unanticipated mood or hidden attitude?   One of the challenges I am learning to address is to use contrast in the painting’s context to reveal something extra and perhaps unexpected about my subjects.