Anatomy of Light

Understanding the makeup of light and shadow is a fundamental art tool. Indeed, you cannot create forms without it.

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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.

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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 “Anatomy of Light”

Integration, Part 1: Light

Integration, Part 1: Light by Michael Newberry

Integration is, perhaps, the most complex problem in making art. Often it is the cause of an artist’s agony and ecstasy.In this series on integration, 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.

Newberry, Counterpose b/w demo

Counterpose, 1990, oil on linen, 36×42″ (Black/white photo)
Notice the dramatic difference between the highlights on her face and fingers and the dark casted shadows. I am purposefully using light and shadow to support the painting’s theme of contrast.

In the orange circle, you can see the high contrast of the fabric of the folds.

Newberry, Counterpose b/w demo
Almost every part of her body has an element of contrast between the light and shadow. You will notice that the highest contrasts are in the foreground and as parts of her body recede away from us the contrast diminishes. This also allows for her body to be integrated into space, which, of course, is another tutorial.

Newberry, Counterpose b/w demo
As a foil to Counterpose, the theme of Denouement is about the radiance of love. It has a much softer, diffused light which radiates out from the lamp on the floor.

Though these b/w photos are of the finished paintings in color, I did paint a monochromatic underpainting for both of them. The advantage of monochromatic under-painting is that it is easier to organize all the tonal values and details without the added worry of the hue (color values) of things.

If you are a painter struggling with a mess that isn’t coming together, take the color out and it will immediate help pull the work together. From that point, go back into color, carefully matching the color with your monochromatic tonal values.

Newberry, b/w of Denouement

Denouement, 1987, oil on linen (Black/white photo)

Here is a side by side comparison of Counterpose in color and without.

Newberry, Counterpose contrast

The next tutorial on integration will be about the high contrast of color in Counterpose.
Michael Newberry
New York, July 28th, 2006

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

Charcoal Drawing Part 2 by Michael Newberry

In Charcoal Drawing Part 1 you will find what are quality materials you need to get the best results.

With this tutorial, I will take you through the drawing stages.

charcoal drawing demo

The preparation takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Now that you have prepared the paper you are ready to roll.

charcoal drawing demo

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.

charcoal drawing demo

After the drawing the composition, I begin to “block” out the darker areas using the soft compressed charcoal stick. Notice that with this too I hold it lightly at the back end. My preference is to drag the charcoal barely touching down on the paper.

Shadows are s difficult business, it is crucial that they feel mysterious and transparent. If you are too firm they will “sit” on the surface, destroying the spatial depth, and any hope of the drawing creating a feeling of light.

charcoal drawing demo
Here I have blocked out the major areas of dark.

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

Using a kneaded eraser I block out the lighter areas, but only a small degree. As with the charcoal, lightly drag the kneaded eraser over the paper. I tend at this stage to draw and erase with uniform rows of lines, a la da Vinci. This keeps the whole image calm, and uniform.

Below, I roll the kneaded eraser into a nub, which I use to erase the charcoal. These erasers need to be kneaded. If not, the charcoal cakes it. Think of a dishwasher sponge covered in bacon fat. That analogy is a little extreme, but just keep kneading the eraser, and it will stay fresh and clean for a long time.

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

Here are the results of blocking out both the lights and darks.

Below, I start refining the details I see, both erasing and drawing.

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

Now I am at a difficult stage. The drawing is set up well, but I have to drive it home. Most important now is to clearly visualize the where the objects are in space. I compare the front corner of the glass vase, with other corners, and with the back and front of the table. Below you can see I am accenting the front corner with darker marks, which helps the corner pop forward.

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

While I am drawing and looking at details, I am squinting most of the time. Squinting enables us to see the nuance of tones and the essential details of light and shadow.

Charcoal Drawing Part 2

The kneading eraser will only wipe out so much of the charcoal. To make the brightest lights, the Pink Pearl eraser does an outstanding job. It is too powerful for the subtle earlier stages but perfect for slashing the shimmering brights.

Newberry, Glass Vase

Newberry, Glass Vase, 2012, charcoal on Rives BFK, 22 x 14 inches.

I hope you enjoyed seeing erasers in a fresh way.

Michael Newberry
Los Angeles, May 2012

Cast Shadows

Cast Shadows by Michael Newberry

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
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–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