Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Chasing Shadows

Cliff Shadows
9x12 oil demonstration
Michael Chesley Johnson

How many of you have run into the problem of complex shadows changing faster than they can be painted?  All of us, I suspect.  Over time, though, I've gotten pretty good at taking mental snapshots of the patterns and working from memory.  However, this method requires practice!  A more sure-fire way is to first block the shadows in very simply with a mid-value grey.  This establishes both the shape of the shadow and a starting value.   Once you've done this, do NOT change the shape of the shadow!

Next, paint the area immediately around the shadow with color.  If the sunlit area is warm, this step will force the grey to "feel" cooler.  Following this, paint color into the shadow, trying to adjust the coolness so it seems right when compared to the sunlit area.  You may have to go back-and-forth a little between shadow and light making adjustments.  Aim for getting the right contrast of value and temperature.  When you're done, you will have created a foundation around which to build the rest of the painting.

I know it'll be tempting to paint elsewhere in the painting while you're working on this step, but refrain from going off-topic.  Your painting will be the better for it.

Below are some step-by-step photos of a demonstration painting from this week's one-on-one Painting Intensive.  The grey I used was Gamblin's Portland Grey Medium.  I've been using this approach all week, and it's worked quite well.

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