Posts Tagged ‘sky’

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.

Reflections

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.