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
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.