Demo on Student Work, Color Theory and Light by Michael Newberry

Newberry student demo time lapse

Newberry Art Tutorials

Using color theory of cool shadows and warm highlights, I corrected this student’s painting. The student got stills with instructions of the steps, here it is simply a time-lapse. Shadows and distance are often either cool or warm, cool shadows imply a cool background. It works. I did about 12 steps, cooling up the background and shadows. For example, on the lips, I changed the blood-red shadows to violet, red+blue=violet. Then I softened the edges where there was a strong line between shadows and highlights, they always need a middle tone dividing them. Then I finished with the light using a light peach, light orange or peach is the opposite of blue — Warm light, cool shadows. I hope this is useful to you.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 4/1/2020

Tutorials, Online Mentorship and Student Testimonials

Student Testimonials

Chan Luu, Orb, oil on panel, 12x16"

I studied with Michael Newberry for a year, and twenty five years later still use at least one thing which he taught me—about color theory, massing of shadow, the ranking of lights and darks, and sketching the figure, finding the lyrical line—every single day in my studio. He is a skilled communicator, a passionate artist and instructor, and my year studying with him was one of the best investments of my career. I would recommend Michael’s instruction one hundred percent.

Melissa Hefferlin

Michael will help you evolve no matter where the level of your skill might be. He will guide you and help you with good techniques but at the same time, he respects the integrity of your personal artistic skill by allowing you the freedom to be yourself within your own art. I enjoy his mentorship. Within 6 months under his guidance and personal attention to my artistic needs, I am painting like there is no tomorrow, after each session, I could see how much I’ve learned and continue to evolve, it’s a life changing experience for me!!!

Chan Luu

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The Surface Vs. 3D Paradox Solved

06-Newberry-Color-Vibration-Study-LightE

There was a crazy split in art history between the modernist perspective of being true to the surface of the canvas vs. the classical window looking at out the world. Paradoxically, both are true but they missed what connects them: light and color vibrations dance on our cornea’s surface.

The recent color charts below are a range of colors of different tones and hues. The project was to bring each color up to the surface, they feel about 1/8″ above the surface as if they are painted ceramic chips. I successfully tweaked them until the paint raised the vibration of the color. Then I began editing small 9×12″ paintings from a trip on Route 66. In each I brought the color vibrations up to the surface yet maintained the “window on to the world”. Notice the rocking horse’s cast green-yellow shadow, and how it rises to the surface yet still resonates as a shadow.

Armed with this new insight I have been applying it to my current life size humanist work, a nude at home in my studio sanctuary. Integrating this new process will be my evolutionary project for the coming years.

Workshop Series: Pastel, Let the Color of the Paper Work for You

Newberry, Santa Monica Lamp, pastel

Newberry Art Tutorials

Colored and dark papers can save you precious time and give you amazing effects. When I paint/draw/teach plein air I try to nail the impression in under an hour, it is a race against the planet moving. As the sun slowly moves across the landscape you will see new cast shadows, new lights, after 3 hours they all cancel each other out leaving you with muck. So in keeping the time short using the dark paper can be a huge advantage.

The idea is the paper is your dark areas, sketch in the composition and leave the darkest part alone. From there you focus on bringing out the light, driving towards the light, with the last touches happening in the last few minutes before your hour is up! This approach works wonderfully and it feels magical while doing it.

One of the reasons why leaving the paper alone as darks works is because shadows are the absence of light. The darks don’t need details or labor, leaving them alone creates a atmosphere of mystery that is a perfect foil for all the lights you will be drawing. Save time, effort, and create magic by leaving lots of paper alone. Enjoy!

Below are my pastel landscapes all in under an hour. Take note of the dark areas are just paper.

Color Theory: Shadow and Depth Share the Same Color Base

Newberry, Clay Jar with Burnt Umber Shadows, 2017, oil on linen, 10x8"

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Painting Is a Lie That Helps Us See More

An important part of being a true artist is exploring visual knowledge. In this series of small 10×8″ paintings I tested my hypothesis that the hue (color) of shadows would have similar hues in spatial depth. The idea was gleaned from two things: looking at landscapes when the distant mountains are blue and there is blue in the shadows of everything including in the foreground. And from my study of the colors of the light and shadows of Rembrandt and Monet, what was different yet similar between them.

At first glance of my paintings above look fairly natural and you will notice the simple objects gently lit. Which is a good thing. This implies that the hypothesis is working. They each have a different color base: red, black, burnt umber, manganese blue, ultra marine blue, gray, and sienna. This means when a lit white stripe in the foreground enters into a shadow it will merge with that shadow’s color base, for instance if the base is manganese blue the white stripe now turns turquoise. The real complexity begins when the further you go back in space the colors of things take on more manganese blue hues.

This fits with a classical view of warmer colors come forward and cooler colors go back but what happens when we reverse this and give the shadows the hot red or sienna and use those hues to blend with the background colors? Yay, it still works in the sense of creating depth and light. As soon as the first artists started painting real things like horses on two-dimensional cave walls there was a paradox that it was a lie and a truth. The advantage of being able to work with radically different color schemes gives the artist more emotional range and visual options. And it gives the viewer more to look for in the world around them.