Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

Casting light on the subject … and on the palette

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

One of my recent plein air outings taught me a valuable lesson.  I had gone with a plein air group to a local livestock ranch.  The morning was bright, sunny, and promised to become uncomfortably warm by mid-day.

As I wandered around, looking for a promising vista, I entered an open barn and, from the dim interior, was taken by the view out the open doorway.  I set up my easel to capture both the frame of the barn’s entrance and the view to the pastures beyond.

Setup in the barn.

Setup in the barn.

But as my eyes struggled with the intense contrast between the inside and the outside lighting, I discovered that they couldn’t adjust sufficiently to compensate for the low ambient lighting where I stood inside the barn.

By location, I knew which pile of paint was which on my palette, but the balances of the various paint mixtures were not so clear.  And though the value differences were somewhat easier to judge, the chroma was not.  Polyisochromes all appeared neutral, as indeed they were all leaning increasingly toward a neutral gray the more I worked with them.

I knew I was in trouble but, rather than finishing with the interior aspects and then repositioning my easel into better light, I struggled to continue in the original position.  That was a mistake.

After closing down and putting away my equipment, I checked the painting in the sunlight and was appalled at the outcome.  I later made some revisions to it in a well-lit studio, which helped.

"View from the Barn" - original version

“View from the Barn” – original version

“View-from-the-Barn,” with studio revisions, by Charlotte Mertz (6″x8″ oil, #190401-o)

Lesson learned:  Be sure there’s enough light on the palette to discern and judge the colors clearly.

What is your background?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

In order to feature the two figures in “The Challenge,” I decided to minimize the background, which, in the reference photograph, was a rather busy room.  I tried the same composition using both a dark (#090704) and a light (#090706) background.  The resulting difference was dramatic.  (This item is categorized under The School of Oops not because it was a mistake but because I learned a great lesson from my experimentation.  You’re invited to comment on the “lab” results.)

The Challenge 1

The dark background draws attention to the playing board, lit by a glaring, bare bulb almost directly overhead, which also fades the players’ features into shadow.  Focus is on the board and the impending move.  The question posed is “Who…or what… is challenging whom?”

The Challenge 2

The light background, on the other hand, draws attention to the two players, rather than to the board, and suggests a higher level of ambient light that reflects more color into the players’ faces.  The play here is only a moment away from that in the other version as the player in blue now contemplates the board.  Is he reassessing the position into which he’s just placed his opponent, or is he evaluating his own predicament?

Not only does the background I chose for each version affect how the viewer interprets the scene, but it affected my own approach and response to the subject matter as I painted.  My treatment of the details in the two versions is somewhat different, partly because of the tone set by the different backgrounds.

I would be interested to hear comments regarding your preference of the two versions and why you feel about each the way you do.

Fooling with flowers

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A white flower can fool you!

I’ve always been intrigued by the form of flowers.  I remember, as a child, studying a daffodil and being awed to discover that the golden trumpet and the crowning petals were all of a single piece, blending seamlessly from one to the other.  But wholly aside from form, color can also provide an interesting study.

Plant forms and colors still fascinate me:  the almost endless array of greens in the early spring; the golds and purples of autumn; petals of diaphanous fragility or succulent solidity; the innumerable textures of deciduous bark and the intricate woven appearance of a palm trunk; leaf shapes—round to bladelike; stems—woody to fibrous; and seed pods of too many shapes, colors, and sizes to list.  I continue to be attracted to textures revealed by light rippling across a surface, delicacy disclosed when light glows through a leaf or petal, and unfurling layers differentiated by color, texture, and shape.

100302 Mega Magnolia

Mega Magnolia

It still surprises me that an apparently monochromatic flower can harbor so many variations of tone, reflect so many different hues from its surroundings, and still be seen by some viewers as simply “white.”  Don’t be fooled.  I used both blue and yellow ochre, as well as a touch of orange at the petal tips, to model the “Mega Magnolia” (#100302) shown here.

You might want to compare it with the various other white flowers shown in the Botanicals Gallery to see the range of colors found in the “white” blossoms represented there.