Cast Shadows

Cast shadow is an essential complement to painting light. Let’s see how Dali, a master of cast shadow, does it.

Dali, Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity

Dali, Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity, 1954

There are different types of shadows and a cast shadow is one in which it falls from an object. A good example of it is when you are walking on a sunny day and your shadow is tagging along, you wave and it waves back.

Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity

In the Dali above I circled in green several of the cast shadows. There are about seven smaller cast shadows, can you find them?

A cast shadow is quite different than a shadow that molds the form of an object. Here we are only going to concentrate on the cast shadow.

In this simple line drawing below I outlined a ball and its cast shadow.

cast shadow line

It’s very important that the outer edge of the cast shadow moves back and forward through space, much like an orbit, or it will flatten your image and destroy the light effect. When I draw a cast shadow, I think in terms of it rotating around an object, as if it’s in orbit.

cast shadow ball orbit
cast shadow ball dark

When shadowing in a cast shadow. it’s important to see the middle tones inside of it–in general, those tones get darker as they get closer to the edge.

As you shadow it in, it’s also important to differentiate the front and the back of the cast shadow. Here I dimmed the shadow as it moves back in space.

Strong looking cast shadows are the product of direct light. Bright sunlight and artificial light cast them. If your light source is indirect, like on a cloudy day or northern light, the cast shadow will be fuzzy.

Below is the same idea, but the surface is folded material.

cast shadow ball
cast shadow ball curve

Often there are many cast shadows in one painting. Be sure to place all of them in space by differentiating their tonal differences.

cast shadow ball dark
Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity

Going back to the Dali, you can see how much advantage he takes using cast shadows. If you are ever using direct light, take full advantage of cast shadows and they will serve you very well.

I hope you enjoyed seeing shadows in a fresh light.

Michael Newberry
New York, January 13th, 2007

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