Monday, March 20, 2017

Painting Glare

I love to paint looking into the light.  Rim-lighting and, especially, glare—glare off water, sand or pavement—are some of my favorite lighting effects.  Getting the effect of glare in paint, though, is difficult.  If you paint like a tonalist, you may end up with something more akin to a nocturne.  To keep the picture in the daylight, you need to paint like an impressionist.

Here's one painting I did recently along the Verde River.  It was mid-morning, and the light was blindingly bright off the water.  I worked with a limited palette of earth colors (raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre) and painted tonally.  To establish the feeling of glare, I had to step down the values of everything dramatically.  As you can see, there's a big chunk of the tonal scale  missing between the glare, which is my lightest value, and the rest of the painting.  When I took it back to the studio, I noticed the only thing keeping it from becoming a nocturne were the rich, dark colors.

Glare on the Water 9x12 oil – Available Here

I decided to make another stab at painting this scene.  I took my usual split-primary palette (a cool and warm version of each of the three primary colors) and purposely worked to keep the overall key higher.  In order to achieve the glare effect, I juxtaposed complementary colors.  Painting glare successfully requires you to manage both color and temperature contrasts.   Value has only a little to do with it.

Spring Comes to the Verde River 8x16 oil – Available Here

For the main part of the glare, I used the lightest tint of yellow I could manage.  I surrounded this with a tint of the complement, violet, making it just a step lower in value.  Finally, I dabbed into the center of the glare area pure white.  This alternated cool and warm to enhance the effect of the adjacent complements.  The violet is a cool note, surrounding the yellow, which is a warm note; and the white in the center is a second cool note.  You can see this in the detail below.

One warning about painting glare—it's hard on the eyes.  I always wear sunglasses when painting into the light.  If you suffer from eye problems or migraines, you might want to paint in another direction.

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