Recently, I received this question: " Hi, I ordered the floor light that you suggested in your newsletter. That lights is used for the room, correct? What kind of bulb do I need for clamp on light for still life setup? The more I read, the more confused I get."
I thought I would start to answer this question by reviewing the colors of light and the effects the color of light has on our painting (and our lives) (Plus, it might explain those cool lightbulb showcases at Lowes).
This is a screen shot image from the Let's Talk Color Art Chat with Linda Fisler featuring Carolyn Anderson (link). In this image, the Kelvin temperature of light is shown to the left and the description matched to a "color" of light is shown to the right (ah ha: the color of the light bulbs in the lightbulb display.)
The floor light that I suggested in my previous post cycles through the warm and cool colors of light . Therefore, your painting area or canvas can be lit in bluer or yellower light. Some of my teachers have suggested that when we light our studios that we put an equal number of yellow and blue light bulbs in our fixtures to "balance out" the light in the room.
Now, what to do about lighting a setup and why does it matter?
As new painters, one reads about "cool light = warm shadows" and vice versa: "warm light = cool shadows" . Hmmmm, aren't all shadows "grey"? We, new painters, feel really amazed when we start to see that shadows can be purple and blue or even filled with bounced light. colors. What on earth is this "cool and warm shadow stuff"? We watch u tube clips and teaching videos. David Leffel and Richard Schmid talk about using natural north light or overcast grey days (respectively) for illumination and talk about the "warm shadows"....they are painting (and seeing???) (Really?)
The first time I saw warm and cool light photographed on the same table leg in Richard Schmid's hardcover expanded edition of Alla Prima II (link) on page 203 AND the change in the shadow color, I was over the moon. Next, at a still life workshop given by Qiang-Huang (link) I was introduced to "gels" to alter the temperature/color of a light bulb. Qiang sells precut blue (north light) gels (link) and discusses how to set them up. He also discusses why he prefers a blue gel to a blue bulb at this link..
This is the light bulb that I use in my clip on hoods (hoods I get at Lowes). Mine came from 1000 lights. Here is a page of them (link). My light bulb delivers concentrated warm light that will cook an orange slice in a skinny minute if placed too close.....I change the color of light with a blue filter, if I want cooler light. I was teaching some kids about color, so I bought several gels from Amazon.
Let me know if this post helps.
My recent watercolor with copper leaf lit in the evening. The light on the copper changes over the course of the day. Evening is very ethereal.
Edges allow the painter to create the illusion of three dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface.
Edges on the outside of the form define where the form begins and/or ends
Edges inside a form occur where the planes of a form change direction
SQUINT to see edges
A hard edge is clear and distinct
A soft edge is fuzzy
A lost edge disappears
Look for a soft or lost edge where it disappears or merges into the neighboring object or background The eye will automatically focus on the sharpest thing that it sees
Our brain knows that a hard, thin edge means that the object is not dimensional or round
Instead, our brain knows that a sharp edge means a thin flat object like a leaf or a piece of paper
Therefore, when beginners paint lines or create hard edges using adjacent flat pieces of color on their work they immediately flatten the area
1. Three shapes separated with a hard edge that have the same value but different colors
2. Three shapes separated with a hard edge that are sharply different in value
Also, three shapes separated with a hard edge that are sharply different in color
3. Two shapes that are sharply different in value with a soft edges between them
3. And two shapes that are sharply different in color with a soft edge between them
#1. edges can be lost when same values but different colors are placed beside each other
#2. a hard edge exaggerates color or value differences
#3. a soft or lost edge between contrasting colors or values diminishes the differences between them
4. Softening the edges between planes of color, creates rounded form (dimension)
NOTE: The harder the edge, the more attention to that area in a painting
Examine paintings that you love: to see whether:
a. Edges that face the light source tend to be hard and those facing away tend to be soft
b. Edges in shadow tend to be softer than those in light
c. Edges are hardest where you want to draw attention
d. Softening edges merges adjacent objects
e. Edges on figures are harder on boney parts and softer on fleshy parts
Here are a selection of tools that get used in most of my classes.
This seems to be the color wheel that most of my beginner students like to use. As one starts mixing colors, it is a great help to be reminded about "complimentary" colors. This one is pocket sized but the same wheel is available larger. Here is a link
The little window can be adjusted to be the relative dimension of the canvas (square, 8 x 12, 9 x 12, 12 x 16) marked on the frame. This can help in selecting the canvas shape. Then, by looking at a scene or a setup through the appropriately sized window, one can use this to frame and sketch or block in onto the canvas.
Here is a link
This tool also aids to choosing and sketching or blocking in a scene or set up. It also has a red filter to help see things in "grey scale". The one I have is folded and includes a printed grey scale.
I found the one shown here available on Amazon link
tI have some plastic pieces that open similar to this commercial true angle tool. This is very useful for checking angles (rooflines, nose to eyes) in drawing. One could make one with some strips of mat board and an old-fashioned acco fastener. Here is a link to purchase this one.
This little painting had the background modified to allow the dog to "take center stage". I am posting it to Daily Paintworks today.
Before you do this exercise, look at a lesson about painting shadows on an opaque fruit by David Leffel (link). Now, to learn how to paint translucent objects (grapes), start at the upper left in the image above then move clockwise. This is adapted from "Oil Painting Secrets From a Master" by Linda Cateura who shares teaching from David Leffel.
1. Put a thin middle grey background ( I used transparent oxide red and ultramarine blue and wiped it back to get thin color.) For the "tabletop", put a small amount of a lighter neutral color. (This is lighter because a tabletop is a horizontal surface and "collects" more light.) Now paint a single value purple or red form. Notice that the flat value and the hard edges make this red/purple form look like a polka dot floating on the grey background. Our light source for this exercise is to the left as you look at the images.
2.Now, give some weight to the polka dot by adding a shadow
3. Add a highlight and the magic. On the side of the object that is farthest from the light add WARM (orange, orange-yellow or orange-red) where the shadow would be with an opaque object (see the last figure lower right to compare the form shadow of an opaque object ). Translucent objects have the light pass through them and then reflect back creating this warm area furthest from the light source. This is different than an opaque object that has a shadow where the light does not reach the far side of the object (Remember that this form shadow is a concave shape)
4. Modify the edges: soften the cast shadow as it moves away from the object, soften the transition between the warm area and the red/purple. If your exercise is large enough, you can change the edges of your object (making them slightly cooler) which will make your object appear rounder.
On the right area are examples of exaggerated warm colors in the transparent objects. A master of exaggerated translucent glow is David Cheifetz (link). Mine is a poor copy of Cheifetz's examples.
I "erased" the muzzle, thinking that the drawing was inaccurate. "Erasing" was accomplished with a papertowel dipped into gamsol.
We are so fortunate to live in a time where you can ask a question and instantly “goggle” an answer. So different than (if lucky) going upstairs to the Encyclopedia Brittanica set (that had become outdated but was too expensive to replace), or waiting to go to the library (the small one at school or the bigger public one once ever 2-3 weeks) to try out a variety of search words or topics to see if there were answers. With all of our available knowledge all one needs is unlimited time. To help, each week I will add some of my favorite valuable resources.
Starting with one of the best:
If you can manage to attend a workshop with Carolyn Anderson (link), she will inspire you to think about the process of painting.
Here is a recent figure that she shared as she talked about color temperature on Art Chats with Linda Fisler’s (link)
Look at essays that she has on her web page about “real in realism” and “thoughts about edges” (link)
Or sign up to read her incredibly thoughtful blog posts at http://carolynandersonartist.blogspot.com
You absolutely must read her “book” (published on her blog)
Bet you can't wait to see what I suggest next week
#4/4 of warm and colorful
Probably my favorite part of the Sorolla museum in Madrid was the collection of Sorolla’s small studies (some shown above).
In my classes, even my advanced students (who truly paint beyond me as their teacher) are required to do a 30 minute learning exercise. To make this exercise less precious, they are encouraged to paint these on inexpensive surfaces. Examples of such surfaces include 1. commercially prepared canvas paper (link). The disadvantage of this surface is that it does not allow very fluid paint movement. The paint seems to "sink into" it and it drags the brush movement. One intermediate student, frustrated by this awkward surface, experimented with adding one or two layers of gesso with a marked improvement. 2. a piece of centurion acrylic-primed linen pad (link) 3. a piece from a pad of centurion oil-primed linen pad: (link) superior in its brush movement and paint application
or 4. cast offs (inserts from your framer) of mat board that are primed with at least one coat of gesso
If something wonderful is painted during these exercises, most can be mounted. The canvas should be cut slightly larger than its support which could be a piece of masonite (hardboard) from the hardware store or foam board available from art grafix (link), Gesso can be used as an adhesive (reference). Rafael’s miracle muck is preferred (they do not ship this in freezing temperatures) (link). A tip I learned from Carolyn Anderson was to iron the back of rolled (and curled) larger pieces of oil-primed linen canvas to flatten them before applying adhesive. I think my notes (hard to read my handwriting) say then to apply the miracle muck adhesive with a foam roller, place the support onto the linen, flip the linen-support linen-side up, cover the linen surface with a cloth and iron it again. Notes also say to iron from the center outwards and NOT TOO HOT. Then, trim the linen being careful at the corners,
This is the second of 4 warm, and bright paintings this week.
I have a wonderful personal library. It is full of my very favorite companions. Because I started as a painter later in life, I prepared for that transition by reading books, blogs, and articles. Once a week, I will share many of these. Perhaps one of the best is Twyla Tharp’s "The Creative Habit Learn It And Use it For Life" (link:)
Early in the book she writes “ ….I’ve learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. …They might set a goal for themselves-...but the real secret is that they do this every day. In other words, they are disciplined. Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit."
It’s the same for any creative individual, whether it’s a painter finding his way each morning to the easel, or a medical researcher returning daily to the laboratory. The routine is a s much a part of the creative process as the lightening bolt of inspiration, maybe more......
Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.”
“It takes skill to bring something you’ve imagined into the world…..to select the colors and textures of paint to represent a haystack at sunset…..”
“If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge.”
I will return to this book with some examples of her exercises but by then, you may have already read this book yourself.
This week, I am painting warm things with lots of color. This is #1/4
Landscape 4/4 in series
I wondered how Elizabeth Gilbert read my mind and then I laughed out loud as I continued reading. “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
You’re afraid you have no talent
You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or - worst of all-ignored
You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money
You’re afraid you’re too fat (I don’t know what that has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure)
You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back
You’re afraid you’re too old to start
You’re afraid you’re too young to start
You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again
You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying
Here is the link for this book. You will love it
The image above is Day 3 of the Thirty in Thirty Challenge and #3/4 of the rural NC landscape series.
Mom, Wife, Former Pediatrician, One who LOVES color, creativity, paint, and lifelong learning.