Sun and Shadow exercise

Sun & Shadow exercise 9 x 12"

In this exercise taught in Maggie Price's workshop, we worked on making a sunlit area with shadows. The emphasis was how to get that warmth from the sun to come through in the painting. Maggie explained to us that a dark object in full sunlight is lighter than the lightest object in shadow. Does this make sense? Let me share this with you then...

We were to pick out a simple subject, a photo with sunlit areas and strong shadows. Since I had no photo that had these qualities, I borrowed a photo to work from. The composition should have a 70/30 relationship to shadows and sun. 70% shadows, 30% shaded areas. Or, if you are the defiant sort, then go 30/70! Then, we had to pick out 3 values of yellow from light to a dark yellow, possibly an Ochre, and 2 values of blue. A light and dark Ultramarine works best. Then carefully block in with your yellow pastel all areas that have sunlight hitting it. Then block in the shaded areas with the light and dark blues. Then we carefully turped the blocked-in areas, keeping the edges clean from each other. (Trying not to make green from the yellow and blue.) Here is my underpainting:

It looks a little abstract, doesn't it?
Now here is the confusing part.....see where the sky is in the top photo? It's blue, right? And take note that I used a light yellow for the sky underpainting. I did this because the sky is the lightest area in the painting! After the blocking in, the light blue sky was painted in just like a "whisper" of color atop the yellow underpainting. This makes it glow! And where the darkest darks are, in the shadows, I placed my darkest greens with a variety of colors in the same value. Notice, the tree trunks are not brown, they are actually painted using a purple and yellow!

This exercise was the hardest for me to grasp, but being uncomfortable means I'm learning new things.


Donna T said...

Thanks for the lesson, Brenda. I have been slowly realizing that my blue skies turn out better if I do not use blue for an underpainting. Maybe because a truly blue sky is seen only on bright, sunny days and you need to hint at the warmth that actually is responsible for the effect. A light orange or burnt sienna underpainting really makes a blue sky seem more convincing. There sure is a lot to learn about this and I find it fascinating!

B Boylan said...

Thanks Donna,
In some instances, I've even used a pinkish underpainting. It seems that a warm underpainting in the sky is always appropriate for that "real" sky look because there is always some sort of pollutant or haze that makes the sky warmer. Especially the closer to the horizon it almost has a yellowish hint without going green.