Light and shadow are two of the most challenging problems facing a painter. Painters can’t harness real light and shadow; instead they must rely on subtle gradations of color to create the illusion.
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1634. Galleria degli Uffizi
In general, I use “light” in painting to mean all those areas which are directly lit by a light source. For example, in this Rembrandt self-portrait most of his face, the glow behind him, some of his hair, and the front of his coat are in the light. The “shadows” are all those areas which fall outside of the light. To demonstrate the division between light and shadow, I cut and pasted squares of color taken from this painting, and divided them into two groups below.
In the last year I have been feeling grateful for friends, the beauty of Idyllwild, the ability to create so freely, and being in the right place to enjoy them all so much.
How does an atheist find images to express that? These overlapping hands had an abstract quality, something of a butterfly, and, for me, absolutely a feeling of thankfulness. A great pleasure to paint. Nod to Manet’s little fingers.
This painting and several recent works from Idyllwild will be in my show at the White Cloud Gallery in Washington, D.C. November 3rd – December 14th.
Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Athens, and Rome. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.
Understanding the makeup of light and shadow is a fundamental art tool. Indeed, you cannot create forms without it.
Three-Quarters Classic Light
A 3/4’s light is falling on this egg form. This means that 3/4’s of the object is directly lit and the rest of it is in shadow.
Four Key Elements
Just looking at the form, there are four elements: highlight, mid-tone, core shadow, and reflective light.
In the light: the mid-tone and the highlight are the areas that are being “hit” by the light source.
In the shadow: the core shadow and reflective light.
Mid-tone: The tricky part here is to mold your mid-tones so that they accent the form of the object. Artists tend to flatten their mid-tones by making them too light, and by making the contrast between the core shadow and the mid-tone too strong. Continue reading →
Integration is, perhaps, the most complex problem in making art. Often it is the cause of an artist’s agony and ecstasy. In this two part series, each tutorial will focus on one problem and show how the solution fits into the whole.
The theme of Counterpose is about a harmony of contrast. At that time in my life, it reflected my quest to pull together many different aspects of art and life and to balance them.
I have removed the color from this image so that we can focus on the tonal values of the light.
Counterpose, 1990, oil on linen, 36×42″ (Black/white photo)
With this tutorial, I will take you through the drawing stages.
The preparation takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Now that you have prepared the paper you are ready to roll.
The charcoal rub on the paper is neither black nor light, but solidly in the middle of the tonal range. Here I am drawing with General’s charcoal pencil 6b. You will notice that I hold the pencil at the back end. It may not seem important, but you might be amazed at how the mark making becomes more fluid.
Cast shadow is a great compliment to painting light. Dali is a master of cast shadow and uses it often.
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.