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Sunday, 30 March 2014





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Learn to draw by Tissa Hewavitarane

Shadows and reflected light

Shadows are often regarded as a necessary evil to be stuck on at the end of a picture without much thought and with even less observation. The feeling of strong light you are trying to portray is impossible without strong contrasting shadows. They are also very useful in indicating the form and texture of surface.

This painting indicates the way that shadows can be used to show the profile of the ground. Notice the way the shadow of the trunk moves over the path, up the bank and wall.

Imagine the shadow of a tree falling across a smooth road, it might show a curve to indicate the contour of the road but if it is cast over a rough cart track with a hedge at the side, the shadow would go up and down each rut of the track, change direction completely as it hit the hedge and would then show the shape of the hedge at a glance by the way it fell.

Notice the painting done here the way that shadow can be used to indicate the profile of the ground. Observe the way the shadow of the trunk moves over the path. Shadows can be used to help build up or strengthen a composition.

The best way to put in a shadow is to first observe very carefully where the shadow comes from and how it changes direction as it goes over various contours it covers. The next is to mix up a good shadow colour, be it warm or cool.

My favourite mixtures are burn amber or burnt sienna and alizar in crimson or ultramarine blue with light red. It is very important you mix up enough paint before you start, it is hopeless if you run out of colour halfway through a shadow. Try it out for strength first on a piece of scrap paper and work quickly and decisively.

Nothing looks worse than an opaque or over-worked shadow. If it has been left transparent, it will then show the other various colours through it as it crosses say a cream path or a green lawn. Reflected light is something which is associated with shadows but is so often ignored or unnoticed when painting a hot sunny day.

Once the principle is understood and you know what to look for your paintings will improve considerably. Basically, all sunny areas surrounding shadows bounce light back on the objects casting the shadows. You can see this particularly on the shady side of a boat where the colour of the water is reflected onto it. Again, on a wall in shadow there is a lighter area at the base where the light from the surrounding ground has bounced up onto it.

This happens on the underside of rocks too. In a sunny street scene, particularly, you get a rebound of light and colour.

Shadows on the street itself will have some of the blue of the sky reflected in them. Train your eye to search out these things. The more you practise the more you become perfect although it probably won't wine off at first. Finally use these effects with discretion.



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