Posts Tagged ‘shade’

Pushing It a Step Further

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

I found the monochromatic push-pull study, which I wrote about last time, a surprisingly difficult challenge. So I decided to apply the same push-pull concept to a full-color study. The result was “Potted Patio” (#110304) in which I was able to explore the concept of bounced light as it played along the walls of a shaded enclosure.

110304 Potted Patio

Aside from the shadows and reflected light shimmying along the white stucco, I had to consider how the light, shadows, and shapes would be reflected in the semi-gloss of the tile floor. Even the birds’ nest in the rafters posed a challenge.

But I’ve found that the very act of creating artwork is an exercise in problem solving in which the artist is faced with a series of interconnected challenges to overcome. Call it a learning experience, if you wish. I call it fun.

Atmospheric Effects

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Misty Morn on Gator Alley

As I drove down Alligator Alley (a long, straight stretch of I-75 that crosses the Everglades) one misty morning, I was intrigued by two things, in particular. The first was the way the foliage appeared layered by graduated gray values, separated by expanses of thin haze. The second fascination was the way the light and shade dappled the chain-link fencing, which is used to keep animals off the highway. I felt challenged to depict the patterning through watercolor.

One problem posed by my composition (#101105, “Misty Morn on ‘Gator Alley,” shown above) was the sky. The sun was strong and still comparatively close to the horizon. The light was bright enough, despite the haze, to cast clear shadows along the fence and to bring out brilliant colors in the grass. Yet the sky was not altogether clear and blue. Although I incorporated a pale cobalt wash to provide a hint of hue, it wasn’t enough to break up the vast expanse in the upper left corner of the painting. I didn’t want to depict a strong sky color or delineate clouds, which would have belied my intent, and since the haze itself was actually a thin, low-lying cloud. So I introduced a bird to break up the area and to provide a sense of “life” and motion.

The sheer simplicity of the composition is much of what makes it succeed.

Composition contrivance

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me.”  A cat also has definite opinions about who he knows and doesn’t want to get to know, how much sun he’ll tolerate in his eyes, and whether he’ll just plain “wanna” or not.  Multiply that cat by two, and it’s a considerable challenge to shoot a paintable composition in a single photograph.

Boots & Bandit

For this commission, the two cats, Boots and Bandit, could not be persuaded to sit together in the sunlit chair that had been placed for the purpose.  Bandit, who had never met me before, didn’t trust strangers, so sat, haughty and uncooperative, glaring at me … when he deigned to sit at all.  Boots took off on his own to lie down between two other chairs, in the shade.  Not that I could blame him.

When being held/posed/manhandled in the blinding sunlight, both cats kept their eyes closed.  Yet their owner requested that I show the characteristic eye color of each of them.  I knew it would be hopeless if we continued the photo shoot in the sun, so we changed tactics and allowed the cats to run around in the open shade of the enclosed lanai.  I tried to position myself in one location from which I could capture their antics, wherever they moved.  And I took shot after shot after shot.  (What a cost savings digital photography is over film in such circumstances!)

Eventually I managed to get a good photograph of each of the cats individually.  Selecting the best photos of each cat, I repositioned them in relation to each other, through digital magic, to create my primary reference.

Aside from ensuring that their relative sizes were appropriate, my main concern in matching up the animals’ photos was that they should be lit from the same direction.  Fortunately, I had two good photos that were lit from the right, though Boots was largely in semi-shade and Bandit was sidelit by brilliant sunlight.  Degree of light can be altered in the painting process, but the contouring that directional light and resulting shadow creates on a subject is considerably harder to adjust.

I chose a few back-up photos of each cat to use as supplemental reference material, not only for color, lighting adjustments, and variations on pose, but also for that important and telling detail, their eyes.

This is when I really appreciate Adobe for having created that powerful photo-manipulation program called Photoshop.  It took me a while to learn; I still use cheat-sheets and refer to how-to books, but the program allows me to set up and adjust compositions on my computer screen that were unobtainable in life.