Thursday, August 27, 2009

Backlit Scenes

Backlit scenes can be challenging. How dark should the shadow be? How light should the light be? It's important to get the degree of separation between the values just right. And for trees, how warm should the light being transmitted through the leaves be? Quite often, the light will make the shadow glow with a richer, warmer light. But, the shadows must still read as shadow and be dark enough.

Here are two pieces I did recently. The first one I painted on a foggy morning. The fog was thin, and bright yellow sunlight poured down through it. I added a bit of Cadmium Yellow Deep to all the sunlit areas, but kept the shadows cooler with Phthalo Blue. The fir tree is largely in shadow with not much backlighting evident, but the light pours down past it onto clump of goldenrod. I hit the goldenrod with pure Cadmium Yellow Deep.

"Fog, Fir & Goldenrod"
5x7, oil/panel

This next one was painted on a clear, bright morning. The sky seemed a reddish, Ultramarine Blue, so I let that be my basic cool color. I worked it into all the shadows. For the warm, shadowed portions of the birch tree, I also added a bit of Cadmium Yellow Deep, keeping the mixture low in value so it would still read as shadow. For the highlights on the birch, I used a bit of Cadmium Yellow Light, which is a cooler yellow, plus a bit of Ultramarine Blue and white. Finally, to let the viewer know that the tree was glowing with transmitted light, I worked some of that same green into the shadow directly below it.

"Join Me in the Sun"
9x12, oil/panel

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