Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Revisiting the Basics: LIght

I try to revisit the basics of art-making every once in a while. Over the years, I've found myself getting complacent about some of the basics, particularly when I'm busy with commissions and painting all day, every day. I have a deep-seated dread of becoming a "formulaic" painter, so if I feel myself going into auto-pilot mode, I take a step back and really focus on reviewing some basic tenets.
Today, I've decided to revisit what I know about light and the absence of light.

How do we see color?
Color originates in light. We perceive sunlight as colorless, but a rainbow is actually testimony to the fact that all the colors of the spectrum are present in white light. (ROY G BIV, remember? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

As illustrated, light goes from the source, to an object, and into the eye. All of the "invisible" colors of sunlight shine on the apple. The surface of the red apple absorbs the colored light rays, except for those corresponding to red, and reflects this color to the eye. The eye receives the reflected red light and tells the brain that's what is being seen.

The colors you see in a painting are actually light waves bouncing off the most opaque layers of a painting, back through the more transparent colors that lie over the opaque surface. You know that magic that happens when you vanish a painting? It's due to that final, transparent (but dense) layer further scattering the light before it gets to your eye.

Highlights are the very lightest value on an object.

Reflected light is light bouncing off of one surface and onto another. The reflected light is the color of the surface it's bouncing off (it is not a lighter value of the surface on which it is reflected). Reflected light can be a light source.

Reflected light 1
Reflected light 2
Diffuse light is scattered and has no concentrated area. Think cloudy day as shown here.
Diffuse light

The next time you're at the easel - or the sketchbook - be conscious of light and how it's impacting what you're creating.

I'll get into reviewing shadow and form in the future. Happy Painting and remember to Live Out Loud!

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