Posts Tagged ‘reflection’


Saturday, January 1st, 2011

When eliminating elements from a photograph, the artist should be careful to eliminate corresponding reflections elsewhere in the composition, such as in puddles, color bounced off nearby opaque surfaces, and in polished or otherwise reflective surfaces.

Lucca Rain

In “Lucca Rain” (#101103), I omitted several elements from the original photograph to simplify the composition. I had to also be careful not to copy their reflections, as it would have been confusing to include reflections, for instance in the puddles in the foreground, of elements that did not appear.

Reflectivity should also be taken into account when changing the appearance of the sky —an overcast sky casts softer shadows than a clear or partly cloudy sky does; contrast is lower, and (in general) colors appear more muted. Exceptions are those elements that appear more highly saturated when wet or when juxtaposed with the other, more muted tones surrounding it, such as tree trunks (which often appear darker when wet) and brightly colored clothing.

There is a strong temptation to limit use of a contrasting color to the focal point in the composition. However, it is a mistake to introduce any color, particularly a saturated one, into a composition without reflecting that hue elsewhere in the painting—whether in direct, mirror- or water-type reflection or through bounced color. The hue can appear more muted in shadowed or obvious reflections areas or be repeated at any level of saturation in minor elements elsewhere in the composition. This helps to unify the painting and keeps the contrasting color in the focal area from appearing out of place.

The reds of the woman’s jacket and umbrella in “Lucca Rain” are repeated faintly in the asphalt underneath the row of trees to her left and are reflected to a lesser degree in the puddle beneath her feet. An underlayer of red was also used in the roof dome above her.

Water, water everywhere

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

One of my goals this summer was to learn to depict water convincingly.  As I studied the play of light on the surface of water in so many of its different moods, and attempted to reproduce the appearance on paper, I discovered that although water does have a natural color of its own, it is better to illustrate it obliquely than directly.

Lakeside Cottage

What do I mean by that?  Water’s character, like that of any other subject, is revealed in the form and character of the reflections and shadows that play across the surface and in its depths.  Water’s transparency provides an extra dimension that opaque subjects don’t have.

Among other things,  though water is transparent, it does have color.  This means that ripples on the surface of the water itself create shadow patterns on underlying surfaces, through which the water’s natural hue is revealed.  In shallow water the natural color is usually so pale as to seem utterly colorless.  Yet deeper water may reveal it to be quite green or turquoise or a purpley-blue.

Though I have heard various explanations for this phenomenon, I am inclined to believe it is due to the variety of minerals dissolved in the water in different locales and the organisms that live in it.  When it’s laden with sand or mud, of course, it carries the color of the soil, as well.  For the purposes of painting, the cause is less important than how it affects the overall appearance to be depicted.

In the painting Lakefront Cottage (#100608), shown above, the water is relatively shallow, so it reveals little of its natural color influence.  Instead, the reflections depict the colors of the plantings and structures on the land, while the shadows in the ripples pick up underlying colors of sand and stone.  The reflections are broken and extended to suggest the rippling surface.  The sky is reflected in the light areas amid the reflections and ripple shadows.  Unlike shadows, which fall in the direction opposite the light source, the lights and darks of reflections are aligned directly underneath their counterparts, with appropriately mirrored angles.   Reflections are broken to the extent that the water’s surface is disturbed.  Quieter water would create sharper-edged, less broken reflections, whereas a wind-riffled surface might show no more than an overall dark/light reflection pattern with no reflected detail at all.