Thursday, February 18, 2010

Painting Glare

"The Road to Jerome" 9x12, pastel - contact Michael

Yesterday, we drove up to Jerome. Jerome, if you don't know, is an old mining town about a half-hour from Sedona. It was built on a 30-degree slope, so many of the buildings long ago slid off into the canyon. At one time, it had more brothels than bars. What's left sits on three terraces, and although the brothels are gone, the bars aren't. It also has a number of art galleries, shops and restaurants that make for a good day trip.

We parked down the hill a bit, near the currently-closed Jerome State Park. From there, you have a view of something that looks like a Tuscan villa plus snowcapped Mingus Mountain in the distance. It's a great view, and I've painted it before. This time, we were there in early morning with the sun in our eyes. Everything was back-lit with glare.

The way I paint glare convincingly is by manipulating the value scale so my sunlit passages are closer to shadow than they are to the highlights.

My main highlight is the bright section of road leading up to the Tuscan villa, and other "glare spots" are one rooftop and the distant snow. Everything else is painted much darker. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, my "glare spots" are a 10, my shadows are a 2, but my sunlit areas are perhaps a 5. So, there are 5 steps of value between the highlights and sunlit areas, but only 3 between the sunlit areas and shadow. By keeping my sunlit areas closer in value to my shadows, I was able to make a convincing effect.

By the way, it was warmer in Jerome - this is mid-February - than it was in October on our "Jerome Day" at the Sedona Plein Air Festival. Yesterday, it was 60 degrees and I wore only a thin fleece jacket. In October, I wore everything I brought, including a down vest, glomitts and a wool toque. We had a snow squall!


Carolyn Jean Thompson said...

Thanks for your tips on painting in glare! We have a lot of that where I live.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, Carolyn! Before Impressionism, there was a group of painters who painted with the so-called "glare aesthetic." Basically, their paintings consisted of large, brightly-lit planes to create a sense of brilliant sunlight. The Impressionists, of course, accomplished the same with clever color usage rather than value.